Rose-Colored Glasses, Part 1 of 4

Posted in Feature on April 1, 2015

By Markshall Rosewater

Markshall Rosewater never met a draft he didn’t love, as long as that draft contains packs from Unglued. He has a kitchen table built under his kitchen table just for Enter the Dungeon. He also used to write for Roseanne.

This week on Really Limited Information we are going to cover a bevy of topics, the first of which is what it means to be a Nuts and Bolts Spike.

Remembering back to the wildly popular and expertly written sitcom Roseanne, I am reminded that it's not the end product that is important: it's the process. Roseanne wasn't popular because of luck; it was popular because the incredibly talented writing staff gave the actors the tools they needed to make the show shine.

The prioritization of winning is a personal choice, and one that is an important step toward being a better player. But it's not the only step; there are many paths to take toward the same goal. Nuts and Bolts Spikes tend to focus primarily on the decisions they make in the game, and less on the actual outcome of the game itself.

Now, this isn't to say that they don't care about winning. It's simply that they put more stock in the process of winning than the actual winning itself. This is an important distinction as it prioritizes the process over the end product. This is the right way to approach almost anything worthwhile.

As I was pulling out of my driveway this morning—and I think we all knew what that meant—I was reminded that it was time to think about the new set and how to use the cards from Dragons of Tarkir in a new Limited environment.

But before we get to that, I want to note what a challenge it was designing a set that "hinged" on Fate Reforged, and how that colored the way we had to design both Khans of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir, plus the next eight blocks. I can't talk about those yet, of course, but when I can I'll link to this article as a reminder. Plus on my Twitter, my Tumblr, and wherever I feel like it. It's my website now.

So, the first thing that came to mind was the new exploit mechanic (which was called "Cash for Clunkers" in playtesting). Now we have all of these great exploit creatures, but they are sadistic and possibly hungry, so they need victims.

As it turns out, there are a few choice morsels running around Tarkir.

This guy was called "Chumpmonk" in playtesting, but boy did he get upgraded with Dragons of Tarkir! Now, instead of just jumping in front of an attacking creature or attacking for a few points of damage, it gets upgraded from lowly 1/1 with prowess to a full card off the top of the library while getting a great exploit effect! It's hard to imagine a better use for a Jeskai Sage than that.

The first time you get to draw that sweet, sweet card off of the exploit, it feels so good.

Another short-lived hero of value from Fate Reforged is Sultai Emissary.

Sultai Emissary ("Build-a-Bear" in playtesting) has always served a strong role in the deck that wants it. It's a nice blocker against many of the ground threats in the format and, against the bigger bodies, it gets to chump block at least twice.

Sometimes you even hit a big creature from the manifest. We knew exploit was coming, however, so this Emissary was designed to increase in value when Dragons of Tarkir was added to the mix. I'm pretty sure I designed this card while sleeping in my shower. I always keep a pencil on hand near the soap for just such a moment.

Anyway, when an ominous Aven or nefarious Naga shows up looking for a victim, the Sultai Emissary can gladly give itself over to the dark side in the best interest of value. Heck, maybe the manifest creature can even turn up later and provide another punch.

Of course, the only thing better than exploiting once, is exploiting more than once.

That's right, if you have enough exploit creatures in your deck, you can use Marang River Prowler ("Pie Fighter") to repeatedly fuel your exploit shenanigans. In fact, many of the best exploit creatures are black, automatically providing you with the body needed to bring back the Prowler for more exploiting. Or just more attacking. But probably more exploiting.

Speaking of pie, I was sitting down for my lunch (a ham sandwich) and updating my blog on my iPad and new MacBook Pro simultaneously, when I remembered the story of how Pie Fighter was designed. You see, Blake Rasmussen, the former editor (now we call it DailyMaro since I've taken over), was once passing by me at a Pro Tour. We hadn't met yet and I didn't know who he was. I thought maybe he was the guy refilling the water coolers. Anyway, I heard him mention "pie" and, almost immediately thought of pie fighter. It took me years to get it to see print, but I'm glad that Pie Fighter made the jump.

Now, in order to determine which is the best creature on Tarkir to sacrifice to exploit, we put the three best exploit targets in the same room with the biggest, baddest exploit creature out there: Sidisi, Undead Vizier (playtest name "Sidisi, Part Deux"). We had to lure a few of them in, but it was in the name of science so we figured it was ok.

I'll let each one introduce themselves:

Sidisi, Undead Vizier: Food. I'm restless. I require a victim.

Sultai Emissary: Uhhh, I just showed up for the interview, but I wasn't really planning on lunch yet. My main passions are chump blocking and oil painting. I also play Ultimate Frisbee occasionally.

Jeskai Sage: Also not interested in lunch. I'm into discipline, meditation, and helping the elderly. Also very into haircuts. What are we doing here exactly?

Youthful Scholar: Sup? Plant form.

Ok… Well now that we have gotten to know you all a little better, let's get to the heart of the interview. The people want to know: Which of you makes the best exploit target?

Sultai Emissary: Look, I already said I wasn't into lunch right now. Why are we here? I thought this was supposed to be a survey or something?

Jeskai Sage: I was told there would be a gift card if I came here and answered some questions. Is the offer still valid? I don't like how that Sidisi lady is staring at me….

Sidisi: Silence. Your presence is required for reasons beyond your understanding. I must make a choice.

Jeskai Sage: What are we choosing here? And was that a yes to the gift card or…?

Youthful Scholar: Sup?

Sultai Emissary: Why does that guy keep saying that?

Youthful Scholar: Plant Form.

Jeskai Sage: Dude.

Sidisi: I have made my choice. Youthful Scholar, come with me. I tire of your prattle, and your face.

Youthful Scholar: Sup??

Jeskai Sage: So will I be mailed the gift card, or how does that work?

Sultai Emissary: I don't even.

Well, there we have it. Youthful Scholar (whose playtest name was "Boy Toy") is the best card to exploit. We heard it right from the premier exploit creature's mouth. In case you were wondering, Sidisi exploited the poor Scholar, but as a tribute to him she searched up his favorite spell: Supplant Form.

One More Thing

Remember this card?

Yeah. I do too. And it still bothers me.

And now in Dragons of Tarkir we have this:

The color pie is what connects and defines the entire game, and some colors just aren't supposed to get access to certain types of effects. Now, any deck has access to this card:

Sort of. It's much more expensive, but after years of waiting, green finally has access to direct damage again. It's no wonder Vial of Dragonfire's playtest name was "Bottle Shock".

A wise and handsome man once said, "Restriction breeds creativity." If that's true, taking the chains of color restriction off of effects like this breeds stagnation. I guess it's better than giving it to green anyway.

What We Learned

Today, like many days, was an interesting journey. We learned, among other things:

  • Nuts and Bolts Spikes care more about process than result.
  • Hornet Sting is still wrong.
  • Sidisi prefers to exploit victims with no hobbies.
  • Jeskai Sage's gift card got "lost in the mail."
  • Sultai Emissary gave up Ultimate Frisbee forever after the "survey."
  • Youthful Scholar never graduated.

Well, I've got an annual holiday party to plan, a cake to make, a blog to update, a podcast to record, a ham sandwich to make (for tomorrow, and every day after), an annual review to write, a Ghost of Future's Past Draft League (GFPDL for short) matches to play, and some much-needed family time ahead of me today.

Join me next week for Part 2 of the Sidisi interview, as well as more gratuitous references to a future I can't talk about yet.

Until then, may all of your exploits draw you at least one extra card.

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