Magic Duels Starter Box Changes

Posted in Magic Digital on March 11, 2016

By Bryan Hawley

Bryan Hawley is a game designer for Magic R&D.

As the content lead in R&D for Magic Duels, I couldn't be more excited for the upcoming Shadows over Innistrad release. Today I'll be walking you through the changes we've made to the Starter Box. In all, 20 cards in the Starter Box are being replaced with new cards when Shadows and Oath of the Gatewatch are released for Magic Duels. Generally, cards are changed because they are leading to unhealthy play patterns: a dominant deck or a strategy that makes the game less fun overall.

How Changes Work

If your collection contains any of the cards that are taken out of Magic Duels, those cards will be replaced with the appropriate new cards. The same is true for your decks. You don't need to do anything, as those decks will automatically be updated once the new release has gone live. Let's check out the changes!

Top-Tier Constructed Balance Changes

IN: Explosive Vegetation

OUT: Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

To the experienced Constructed player, this change likely comes as no surprise. The multicolor "ramp" decks have been somewhat dominant recently, and they can be frustrating to play against because their most efficient ramp option is also such a strong tempo play. With this change, those decks still have access to a strong way to accelerate mana production, but must find other ways to interact with the opponent. This will make going up against those decks more fun.

Early Game Adjustments

IN: Minotaur Abomination

OUT: Dreg Reaver

IN: Siegecraft

OUT: Divine Favor

IN: Suppression Bonds

OUT: Angelic Edict

IN: Yavimaya Wurm

OUT: Axebane Stag

The Starter Box is there to give the newer player a lot of deck options, even before that player opens up many booster packs. What we saw from these early forays into deck building was that creature quantity mattered much more than overall creature quality. There was little incentive to going up the mana curve because the options at higher mana costs didn't necessarily outclass the lower-cost creatures. This led to runaway games that weren't very satisfying. Providing better large creatures (particularly to green) and more defensive options (particularly to white) should foster more viable strategies at this level and lead to fewer "traps" for newer players. If you unlock the Shadows over Innistrad Starter Box additions, you'll find even more cards to further this goal: Champion of Arashin, Crow of Dark Tidings, Ember Beast, Metropolis Sprite, and Spined Wurm.

Note: Now that Suppression Bonds is available in the Starter Box, it's being replaced in Magic Origins booster packs with Enshrouding Mist, a card that previously appeared only in Story Mode.

The "Dual Lands"

IN: Sylvan Ranger

OUT: Gatecreeper Vine

IN: The OGW and SOI "dual lands"

OUT: The Guildgates

We're adding ten lands that enter the battlefield tapped and can be tapped for one of two colors of mana. Five of them appeared in Oath of the Gatewatch and—what's that, you haven't seen the Shadows over Innistrad ones? Well, the cycle is completed in Shadows over Innistrad, and those cards look like this:

These lands aren't creatively tied to any plane, so we're putting them in and taking the Guildgates out, as they're creatively tied to Ravnica. Gatecreeper Vine makes little sense without Gates, so that gets a less plane-specific replacement as well. As an aside, this is another change we'll keep an eye on, as we're aware that the creature-based mana fixing is a considerable component to the four- and five-color ramp decks.

The Others

Whether you're a seasoned veteran or just starting out, these changes are aimed to make your play experience better.

IN: Lifespring Druid

OUT: Jagged-Scar Archers

Jagged-Scar Archers contributes to frustrating lockouts where flying creatures are irrelevant and ground creatures quickly become too small to matter. Lifespring Druid gives Elf decks a mana boost without dominating defensively.

IN: Bronze Sable

OUT: Perilous Myr

Perilous Myr is the flag-bearer for over-efficient elimination of small creatures. Magic is more fun when the answer to a particular strategy isn't just more of that strategy. While clearly weaker than the Myr, Bronze Sable is a capable low-cost creature that can fill out a curve without suppressing the competition.

IN: Goblin Balloon Brigade

OUT: Foundry Street Denizen

Hyper-aggressive red decks can often benefit the most from new card sets, and there are plenty of great red cards in the two new Magic Duels sets. We want to rein in the power just a little here.

IN: Expedition Envoy

OUT: Elite Vanguard

Ally fans rejoice! This change should help give Ally decks a leg up without overloading the format with efficient early creatures.

The More Things Change...

We hope that you find these changes contribute to a great game experience in Magic Duels. We're always keeping an eye on the environment. Each new set may bring more Starter Box changes if we see imbalances or unhealthy patterns. We don't want to use card changes to artificially generate churn. It's never easy to remove a card from the game. Inevitably, that card was someone's favorite. But sometimes change is necessary. Perhaps some of these changes will lead to new deck ideas. There's much to explore when Oath of the Gatewatch and Shadows over Innistrad release in April. We can't wait to see what decks you bring to the battlefield.

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