Rotation and Revolution

Posted in Latest Developments on May 24, 2002

By Randy Buehler

Last week’s poll was an interesting one for us. We had been leaning towards not having any new art in Eighth Edition and we were just going to use the most recent version of each card (because we’ve heard some players complain about too much new art making it hard to recognize the cards from their pictures). I was in a meeting last week on just this subject and I suggested that I could use the poll from my column to get us some feedback before we made a final decision. Boy am I glad we asked!

How much new art should 8th Edition have?
None 657 7.9%
Small Amount 911 11.0%
About Half 1600 19.3%
Large Amount 1791 21.6%
All 3324 40.1%
Total 8283 100%

In addition, I fielded several emails from readers who wanted to elaborate on their vote, many of whom explained that a lot of the (new) art in 7th Edition was fairly lame. Many campaigned for us to bring back better versions of the cards and/or only do new art if it was actually going to be an improvement.

With all this feedback in mind, here’s what we’re going to do:

a) We’re going to go with a “greatest hits” approach to the art. That is, for most cards we’re going to use the best art that the card has ever had (that we don’t have to pay royalties for). Alpha art, unfortunately, is out of bounds because of the contracts we used to sign with the artists, but everything from Mirage and Fifth Edition forward is fair game. This will make the set look a lot better than it otherwise would have and it will allow us to bring back many of your favorite illustrations.

b) For all the cards that don’t have particularly good illustrations yet, we’re going to commission new art. We’re currently estimating that about 10% of the set will have brand new art, which is a small enough number that we’ll be able to make sure we really do improve those cards.

c) (This is the really cool one...) For cards where we already have two good versions, we’re going to let you choose which one we use! Look for an announcement soon about this promotion... which will actually cover more of 8th than just the art.


So enough about Eighth Edition (for now)... I want to spend the rest of this week’s column giving a developer’s-eye view of the Extended Rotation. It wasn’t my decision, but I am in favor of it because we can’t just keep adding cards to a tournament format and except it to stay healthy. Every time we print a card that’s good enough to get played in an Extended deck that means some other (weaker) card leaves the deck. So over time, as the Extended card pool grows larger, the power level of the cards that are actually getting played goes higher and higher. This inflationary spiral does not make for a healthy environment in the long run. The beatdown decks just keep getting faster and the combo decks just keep getting deadlier and many of the mistakes we in R&D make just linger forever.

(Note that this argument only applies to tournament formats. If you and your group play primarily to have fun or pull off something cool then, hey, the more cards the merrier. But Extended is used to give away lots of money on the Pro Tour circuit and the DCI is obliged to keep it fair, fun, dynamic, and challenging for cutthroat tournament players.)

That's the game, boys.

There’s a pretty interesting combo deck that can be built using the Judgment card Worldgorger Dragon that nicely illustrates the reason you can’t just keep adding cards to a tournament format. On turn 1, put Worldgorger Dragon into your graveyard (Entomb it, discard it, whatever). On turn 2, play Animate Dead targeting Worldgorger Dragon. Well, when the dragon comes into play all your other permanents are removed from the game. Of course, that includes Animate Dead. But when Animate Dead leaves play the dragon dies. So the dragon heads back to your graveyard and you get all your stuff back... including Animate Dead and both your lands. Conveniently, your lands come back into play untapped. Get the dragon again, float two mana before your lands leave play, rinse, lather, repeat, and boom! You’ve got infinite mana on turn 2. Season to taste with Ghitu Fire or Stroke of Genius -- Stroke is almost certainly better since blue also gives you cards like Brainstorm and Whispers of the Muse that will let you find your kill card once you have infinite mana. Oh, and did I mention that Dance of the Dead works just as well as Animate Dead? Necromancy also works if you’re patient enough to wait until you have three mana.

No one on the Judgment development team had any idea you could do this with Worldgorger Dragon. It just never occurred to us to think about the card in conjunction with Animate Dead (or Dance of the Dead or Necromancy). We don’t even use that wording on our reanimation spells anymore -- we do them as sorceries.

I don’t feel bad about it, either. There’s no way we can look at every possible card combination in Extended. A couple of years ago, Donate - Illusions of Grandeur snuck through. I’d like to think I would have caught that if I had been on the job back then, but I’m really not sure. If you have a format that just keeps growing, something is inevitably going to break.

So it turns out that the Worldgorger Dragon combo disappears from Extended when the format rotates on November 1st. Interestingly, the final decision about the Extended rotation was made before anyone even noticed this fortunate outcome. I’ll admit we got a little lucky this time, but I think this really does illustrate why the decision to rotate Extended is correct.

This week's poll deals with next week's column:

Randy may be reached at

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