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By: oraymw, Oraymw
Jun 26 2015 12:00pm
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Welcome to another installment of Ars Arcanum, the MTGO numbers-based limited series. We’re in a sort of between time for Magic. Dragons of Tarkir came out a few months ago, and Magic Origins won’t be spoiled for a while yet. Of course, this is timed perfectly with the start of my summer vacation, when I have significantly more time to work on articles. I was trying to think of something for an Ars Arcanum article, when I remembered a conversation that I had had with Kenyon Colloran on Twitter.

This was about a year-and-a-half ago. Kenyon had made a comment about Invasion/Planeshift/Apocalypse draft, and I had mentioned that I didn’t really like the format. Kenyon asked me why, and I was about to respond “because there is too much stinking removal,” but I stopped. I realized that no one had really done an in depth study of the removal in Magic over its history. In that moment, I decided that I was going to put together an article where I categorized and quantified Magic’s removal and then looked at how it changed over time. I told Kenyon that I would explain it in an article.

This is that article. It’s been a long time since the original genesis of the idea. This is because I sat down the day after that conversation to start the research, and I realized that it was a more massive undertaking than any other Magic project that I had done. I didn’t have enough time to do it during the school year, and I couldn’t do it last summer because I was moving, but this summer, I finally had the time to sit down and crunch all of this out. What you are about to see is about 50 hours of work categorizing every removal spell from expert level expansions in the past 15 years, which amounts to around 2500 cards in about 50 sets.

In this article, I’ll first talk about the methods I used, and then we’ll dig into the numbers, and we’ll have a discussion about the implications of those numbers.

Methods

The first step in this process was to quantify and record every removal spell from expert level expansions in the past 15 years. I chose to focus on these sets, Invasion through Dragons of Tarkir for a few reasons. First, while Mirage through Mercadian Masques were all designed with limited in mind, I feel like Invasion was the jumping off point for what we now view as drafting. This is probably because I started drafting heavily with the release of MTGO, and Invasion was the set that MTGO debuted with. I considered adding the core sets since M10 to this study, but that would have been quite a bit more work while recording every expert level expansion would probably still give use the most important broad strokes.

For this study, I recorded every removal spell in a spreadsheet. I put together the study with eight data points. The goal was to have relevant data points that would help in understanding the broad strokes of how magic has changed. This is a difficult process, since Magic is a game of incomparables, and it is, by necessity, subjective. While it’s easy to encode most cards for their color, mana cost, damage, and rarity, it is much more difficult to encode things like the flexibility and power of removal. Even mana cost is difficult when you start including X spells and cards with kicker. The point is that it’s very possible that you will disagree with the way that I categorized or encoded the cards, so remember to take these numbers with a grain of salt.

The eight key indicators I chose were Color, Converted Mana Cost, Timing, Toughness Effect, Rarity, Restriction, Effectiveness, and Card Advantage.

For color, I encoded cards according to the colors of decks that would play the cards. For example, Blinding Souleater was rated as a white card because it has a white activation cost. I also lumped multicolor together and I put all colorless cards in their own category. This is the most squishy of the categories, but it’s also not the focus of the study.

For cost, I noted the converted mana cost required to use the card as removal. For something like Doom Blade, it’s easy because the converted mana cost is 2. A card like Tower of Calamities is different because although it costs 4, it activates for 8. This becomes tricky for a lot of cards especially when they have activation costs, but I chose to account for activation costs in other categories. Basically, the CMC boils down to when the card starts to affect the board.

Timing is one of the other squishy categories. I chose four categories; Sorcery, Instant, Delayed, and Counterspell. The first two are fairly straightforward, though cards like Man-o’-war are categorized in Sorcery and creatures with Flash are categorized under Instant. Delayed refers to cards that are committed to the board but that allow your opponent multiple phases to respond. Tideforce Elemental is a good example of this. The last category is Counterspell, which is straightforward; it requires you to answer the spell during a very specific time period. Including Counterspells with the discussion of removal is tricky; I could make arguments both for their inclusion and exclusion, but in the end I decided to include them, but give them their own category.

Toughness Effect originally started out as damage, but there are enough effects in magic that give a creature –X/-X that I changed the title very quickly. I tried to base this on normal case scenarios; Burst Lightning is cast dealing 2 damage much more often in Zendikar than it is for 4 damage, but most cards that do this have hard amounts.

Rarity is easy sine it is the least squishy category. However, I also want to note that each category that I will analyze is using my rarity weight method, which essentially evaluates cards based on how often they show up in packs. So a Common has a bigger impact on the numbers than a Mythic Rare. The advantage is that the numbers are less skewed by big and splashy effects, the disadvantage is that it doesn’t really account for the likelihood of a spell to be played.

The next three categories were the most subjective. Restriction is a concept that is basically impossible to quantify in Magic, and I expect that people would disagree with my ratings more here than in any other category. I decided to use a pointing system based on how difficult it is to use the piece of removal. Something like Swords to Plowshares would get a 1, the lowest level of restriction. It is cheap, easy to cast, and doesn’t require any set-up cost. Doom Blade gets a 2 because there is a large subset of creatures that it cannot hit. The higher restrictions are more squishy, they include factors like converted mana cost; Rite of the Serpent has a 3 rating because it costs 6 mana, while Mardu Charm has the same restriction rating because it costs three colors of mana. Your fine with these in the main deck, but they require some commitment to cast them. A four represents cards that are right on the borderline of being maindeckable because of their narrowness. A card like Plummet or Encase in Ice fits this category, but it might also include the Monstrous ability on Hythonia the Cruel. That is a great example because you include Hythonia because she has great stats, but having access to her removal ability is powerful but you can’t really count on it. Five is for cards that you can basically never consider for your maindeck, things like Glare of Heresy or Boulderfall get this category; there’s just too much of a chance that they are unusable.

Effectiveness relates to how well a card removes a creature. It is on a scale from one to five, and also uses a pointing system. One is for cards that only weaken a creature or that affect it only temporarily without requiring your opponent to replay the card. Sensory Deprivation gets a 1 because it leaves the creature alive and able to block, and Crippling Chill also gets a 1 because the creature is only incapacitated for a turn or two. A two rating is for cards that are either removed from the board until your opponent recommits to them or for cards that allow your opponent to choose what dies. Voyage’s End gets a 2 because it returns the creature to its owner’s hand, while Tribute to Hunger gets a 2 because your opponent gets to choose what dies. A three is for something that incapacitates a creature, but your opponent could exert some effort to unlock the creature. Pacifism is the perfect example, because the creature is technically removed, but there are plenty of cards that could pull it out of that state. Four is for cards that are dead. They go to the graveyard. Every set has some number of ways to pull those cards out of the graveyard, but mostly you can rely on them just being dead. Five is the last category, and it counts things that are exiled with no potential to return. There are many removal spells that don’t fit neatly into these categories, so I did my best to match them with cards that are of about the same effectiveness.

The last category is Card Advantage. This is represented by a number. If it gets a -1, then you essentially lose a card and the creature isn’t dead. Unsummon fits this category. A 0 is a straight trade, one-for-one. If a card is rated 1, that means you are up a card from the effect, like with Flametongue Kavu. Again, for some of these cards I had to make approximations. It’s hard to know exactly how many cards Pyrotechnics is worth, but I gave it a 1 because I think that is the average case scenario for the card.

As I said earlier, there is plenty of subjectiveness and squishiness to these ratings, and I don’t claim to have done a perfectly objective job at rating these cards, but I did multiple passes on the numbers to make sure that I was at least being consistent. Based on those methods, here are the numbers.

Percentage of Removal Per Pack

For this chart, I used rarity weight to calculate the frequency at which removal spells appear in packs for any given set. The blue line shows the amount of removal for each particular set, which comes in for an average of about 20% or around 3 cards per pack. The green line shows the trend line over the past 15 years. The first thing to note is that there has been a lot of variation in the amount of removal in Magic sets. We have sets like New Phyrexia where 30% of the set is removal of some kind (4.2 cards per pack), to Judgment (which was deliberately skewed to have more White and Green cards) that had only 13.5% removal spells (2 per pack). However, even with all of this variation, we cannot see a discernible trend towards an increase or decrease in the number of removal spells.

Basically, we would predict that Magic Origins will have about 20% removal spells, give or take 3-4%, and based on the trendline, we would expect the same thing from Battle for Zendikar, as well as every set release for the indefinite future until we start to see data that suggests that things are changing. I’m not sure if this is accidental or deliberate, I lean toward the latter, but it seems that R&D has decided on the number of spells they want in any given set that can kill creatures.

When I went into this study, I had a theory that past sets had more plentiful and more powerful removal, so this was a nice surprise to disconfirm my original thesis. Over the years, I have felt like the number of removal spells has decreased, but that isn’t true; I suspect that I simply don’t take removal spells as highly or play them as frequently, and so it creates the appearance that there are fewer cards that kill things.

There are a few key takeaways from this. There are about 2.5 times as many creatures in any given limited environment than there are removal spells, that that number stays fairly constant. Each player will get about 9 removal spells on average per draft, but obviously they will not all be very good, and most decks will end up with around 3 to 5 of those spells. Removal is a scarce resource, which means that players are going to fight harder over it, and that it needs to be used more carefully.

Converted Mana Cost

This chart shows the converted mana costs of removal spells in limited and it has been weighted according to rarity. The blue line shows the average cost of removal spells for a given set, while the green line shows how these averages have trended over the past fifteen years. The average cost of removal spells is about 3.3 mana, but the green trend line shows us that the cost of removal spells has been slowly on the rise from set to set over many years. While there are several outliers, there is definitely less variation in this chart.

This data came as less of a surprise to me. However, I still expected that the change in CMC for removal spells would have been larger. In my mind, I see the difference between Doom Blade and Reach of Shadows. However, it’s important to remember that cards like Pacifism and Epic Confrontation are still printed at common, while cards like Second Thoughts and Morbid Hunger were still printed in older sets.

We still see an increase in CMC over the years, even though it has been subtle. I also suspect that if we broke down the other categories by CMC, such as restrictions and effectiveness, we would see that the cheap spells have become significantly less powerful over the years. On the flip side, creatures seem to have gotten more efficient for their mana cost.

Raising the cost of removal spells means that creatures are able to hit the ground and not face interference until later in the game. That half a turn difference is a bigger deal than it seems; it often means that your opponent is going to have two creatures to deal with instead of one. Using your entire turn for a removal spell in the midgame means that you are still going to be facing an attack from your opponent. It becomes more and more important to pick up creatures that can interact with the board early on in the game.

The interaction of these factors has also helped push Magic away from being a game about card advantage towards being a game about tempo. Mana efficiency is now one of the most important skills in the game. It means that players have to make more difficult decisions about how and when to use their removal spells, since it is more difficult for them to do multiple things in one turn.

Toughness Effect

In this chart, we see the change in toughness affecting spells over the history of the game. The blue line shows the average toughness of creatures that spells can kill in a set. The green line shows the trend over the past fifteen years. There are two major outliers; Saviors of Kamigawa and Innistrad. These are also easily explainable. Saviors of Kamigawa had very few removal spells at all, and most of its damage dealing cards are at higher rarities. Innistrad is another outlier; its number 13 theme throws off the number with cards like Into the Maw of Hell. This chart shows little variation; R&D has figured out that they want most things to kill creatures with two or three toughness. It’s also worth noting that from Ravnica to Avacyn Restored, we saw basically no change in the amount of damage dealt on average by removal spells.

It’s not until the past three years that we’ve started to see a shift in these spells. In the past, we would see more spells that dealt two damage, but we’ve now reached the point where most of our toughness affecting cards kill things with three toughness. It’s not that difficult to see why; creatures have gotten much better, and two damage just doesn’t really cut it anymore. A perfect example of this is with Journey into Nyx, which has Magma Spray, a reprint from Shards of Alara. However, Shock has been a mainstay of limited for years, and it was one of the best commons in Onslaught block draft. The difference is that Magma Spray, while strong, was just not on the same power level as Shock had been. It was a card that kept moving lower and lower in my pick orders, because it just couldn’t kill the things that needed to die.

It used to be that black and red were the powerhouses of limited. One of them was almost always the best color in any given set. Nowadays, Black is almost always still a contender, but red has been mediocre for years. The last time (before Dragons of Tarkir) that I felt that red was actually a contender for best color was in Zendikar. I suppose an argument could be made for red in Gatecrash, but I thought that black and white were clearly the best two colors there. The strength of red has always been in its direct damage, but red is still stuck in the early 2000s, while all the other colors have been progressing steadily. I’m glad that the past block shows a slight improvement in red creature removal, but I suspect that there is still room for growth.

Restrictions

This is where we start to see the real meat and potatoes of this article. Remember that restrictions refers to how easily you can point your removal at a creature and see it die. The blue line shows the average restriction of removal weighted by rarity for each set. The green line shows the trend for how it has changed in the past 15 years. We have seen a steady increase in the restrictions on removal spells each year for the past 15 years. While it’s true that we see several dips along the way, this typically happens with a fall set where R&D is forced to reprint the basic removal spells needed for competitive constructed decks, and then we see a spike as the block progresses.

In the beginning of the study, we see an average that hovers around 2.25. This means that most removal spells were restricted at about the same level as Doom Blade. Something like Darigaaz’s Charm was still strong, but you could often skip it in favor of a more flexible removal spell. Nowadays, we see a spell like Mardu Charm, and it feels flexible!  In fact, up until the release of Fate Reforged, the average removal spell had a three on its restriction rating in the six most recent sets.

Removal spells are harder to use now than they have ever been. The perfect embodiment of this principle is in Epic Confrontation. There were cards that simulated this ability in the past, but they were always deemed too hard to set up and too risky, and so those spells would go all around the table. Now, Epic Confrontation is one of the best commons in Dragons of Tarkir, despite requiring you to have a large enough creature to kill your opponent’s creatures, and needing to be cast on your turn, often into open mana, when you run the risk of being hit by a removal spell to give your opponent the two for one, or possibly just running into Coat With Venom.

One of the key ways that this has impacted limited is in the increase of incomparables. It used to be much easier to directly compare removal spells based on what they could kill and for how much mana, but now it is more difficult. You have Twinbolt at two mana which is very good at killing small creatures but just doesn’t do much of anything against dragons. And you’ll have Reach of Shadows which can kill dragons but is so inefficient against two drops. And you’ll have Epic Confrontation that can kill either, provide that your creatures are bigger and your opponent’s creatures don’t have deathtouch. Figuring out which of those spells is the most important for your deck is difficult, and it’s often important to have a balance of different removal spells, or to shore up your weaknesses in some other way. It also becomes more important to think more deeply about how to use your removal spells in game; you have to be more miserly with your Reach of Shadows when it is so difficult to get rid of a dragon in any other way.

Effectiveness

This chart shows the average effectiveness of removal spells as weighted by rarity. Remember that effectiveness can essentially be translate as “how dead is it?” The blue line shows the average for each set, while the green trend line shows how the average has changed over the past fifteen years. There is definitely some variation from set to set, but we can see a clear trend downward over the years. We’ve gone from a 3.5 average, meaning that most spells range from Pacifism to Doom Blade with a few outliers, to a little below a 3.0 average, meaning that most spells range from Griptide to Pacifism on average.

The biggest change in this category is that removal effectiveness has been shifted up the ladder in rarity. We see more spells that aren’t powerful enough to deal with a creature on their own. We see more bounce spells. We see more enchantment based removal. A great example would be Pin to the Earth from Journey into Nyx. In the days of IPA and OTJ, we would have scoffed at that spell; if you gave a creature -6/-0, it could still block or be sacrifice or be pumped up, or anything else. You just didn’t need to do that because you had real removal spells on hand. But in Journey into Nyx, I was quite happy to pick up a lot of Pin to the Earths, because they let you deal with so many problematic creatures, though they did give your opponent a good blocker.

The biggest problem here comes from utility creatures and bombs. If you want to deal with a Master Decoy, you need to be able to kill it dead; using a Pacifism just doesn’t do anything to it. Likewise, using a Sidisi’s Faithful on Dragonlord Dromoka can help for a turn, but you are still going to lose to it when they replay it next turn. Dealing with the bombiest creatures requires having good removal, and there is just a shortage of that now, which means that bombs and utility creatures are able to dominate the board more effectively.

Card Advantage

The last category is card advantage. This chart shows the average amount of card advantage that you get from removal in each set. The numbers range from about -0.1 to about 0.7. The green line shows the trend in how this has changed. This is the category where we see the biggest change over the past fifteen years. In the old days, we had an average of around 0.4. It was easy to get removal that killed a creature and left you with something else. Nowadays, our average is less than 0.1. It is much more likely that you will either trade one for one with your opponent’s creature, or have to trade multiple cards to remove a threat.

This is my biggest problem with old sets; cards like Exclude or Annihilate or Reckless Spite or Flametongue Kavu were all over the place. This made those sets feel like they were much more tactical and miserly. The game was about counting up card advantage and trying to grind out every bit of card advantage as you could out of every game. Nowadays, the game is more about tempo and strategy. It changed from a puzzle that you were trying to solve into a work of art where you come up with a strategy, with an approach to your deck, and then you build up your deck to support that strategy.

This is the kind of Magic that I love; the kind where you are torn between two different routes to take on the game, and you have to have a better sense of the metagame and of your deck in order to understand which lines of play will be the most promising, instead of just counting up how many cards you gain which each play.

You can tell that I’m a big fan of this change in card advantage. I do think that sets like Avacyn Restored and Born of the Gods push this a little bit too far. In those sets, the removal was too weak. You just couldn’t afford to play it, and so the game mostly becomes just a race to see who can execute their plan the most quickly. But making removal too powerful means that it is very difficult to put together a grand strategy, since it can just be picked apart at any point in the game.

Conclusions

I have so much more to say on this topic, but I’ve already put together a tremendous word count. Basically, I’ve only presented the data, and only skimmed over the implications of the data, and how to best take advantage of that information. But don’t worry, I’ll be back to dissect the data even more and explain how I think this information can best inform our limited strategy.

Here is a summary of what we saw:

            1.         The amount of removal per pack has stayed essentially the same since Invasion.

            2.         The converted mana cost of removal spells has steadily increased, though not by as much as I assumed.

            3.         Removal spells deal more damage now than in the past, but this has not scaled proportionally with the power level of creatures.

            4.         Removal spells are harder to use and are less versatile than they have ever been.

            5.         They are also less effective than ever, and just don’t kill things dead.

            6.         The most significant change is that removal no longer gives you much additional value beyond just killing a creature.

My plan is to put together another article where I talk more about what this data means. If you have any thoughts, please let me know. I’m sure that there are more implications than I could think of on my own.

 As always, thanks for sticking through to the end of the article. If you want to find more information from me, you can check out my blog at oraymw.wordpress.com. I’ve had some pieces go up lately that I am very proud of, and I also always link to the latest Ars Arcanum from there, and I’ll be providing a few extra details that didn’t make it into the article at that location. You can also follow me on twitter @oraymw for updates about when articles go live, as well as daily discussion about Magic and limited. Finally, feel free to leave any comments below, or drop me a line at my blog or on twitter. See you next time!

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5 Comments

Great article, as always! A by a small child at Sat, 06/27/2015 - 22:22
a small child's picture

Great article, as always!

A few thoughts:

1. It might be instructive to look at the types of cards that benefit the most and lose the most from the increasing scarcity of reliable removal. It seems to me that pump effects and bounce effects have gained in standing while basically any spell that doesn't immediately impact the board has lost a lot of playability.

In some ways this is a good thing. A certain subset of the playerbase loves nothing more than to put fat pants on a weenie and go to town, and that strategy was barely ever viable in older draft formats. Now it tends to be a staple of some formats (Theros ordeals, Innistrad Travel Preparations, etc.) One result of this is that bounce (which is still an effective way of dealing with these types of lines) has become more effective relative to removal (which often has difficulty removing pumped up creatures due to conditionality).

On the other hand, the difficulty in stifling early pressure has made durdling much more difficult. Again, for some this is a good thing. That said, putting together sweet combos that don't have an immediate payoff is MUCH harder now, which a different set of players I'm sure dislikes.

To me, I find this shift to be a bit stifling. While I like the fact that auras are an actual thing now, formats that feature powerful and aggressive pump strategies feel extremely swingy and volatile to me. Often times the game will hinge on one play, sometimes as early as turn two, where if you have the answer you are extremely likely to win the game and if you don't you are almost guaranteed to lose. One drop into ordeal in Theros is a perfect example of this. If you happen to draw an answer right away you probably win and if you don't you're going to have a very hard time coming back.

2. While control strategies were perhaps too dominant in most past draft formats, I'd argue that the reduction in the quality of removal (along with other changes such as worse card draw) has made true control strategies very difficult to pull off. It's much more difficult now to keep up with faster strategies when you not only need to draw enough removal but you need to draw the correct spells to match your opponent's threats. Even then, you are likely to run dry and end up with a bad "Last Fatty" problem. Essentially you need a top end that can reliably and unconditionally put the game away, and that means a bomb rare or more likely mythic. Sometimes it can happen but often times it just doesn't work out. Note that there are some formats where this is less true because the format is both slow and there are very powerful lategame cards at common (eg: triple Khans Sultai with Treasure Cruise). In contrast, I think you can sit down at any draft table in almost any format and a viable aggro (or at the very least offensive midrange) archetype will be available. Consider MM2015 -- essentially every archetype in that format is either aggro or midrange with the sole exception of 4-5 color which is sometimes midrange and sometimes true control.

I completely agree that older formats tilted too heavily toward control, but I think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction for the most part. I'd like to see formats where control, aggro, attrition, and midrange are all legitimate strategies.

3. The most troubling effect of the changes to removal is, in my opinion, the disruption of the color pie. Black in particular has suffered, while Blue, White, and Green have all improved their standing. Red I think hasn't changed much as its removal has always been of the conditional variety with the added benefit of also providing reach to help offset this. Now, most cheap Black removal is barely distinguishable (and sometimes actually worse) than White, Green, or even Blue removal. In Rise of the Eldrazi, for example, Narcolepsy was arguably a better removal spell than any of Black's commons in the context of the format. In MM15 Black has Nameless Inversion, Grim Affliction, and Bone Splinters while White has Sunlance and Arrest. Black has arguably the better suite here but it's darn close.

Most of the time Black receives an expensive, unconditional removal spell at common and a couple of good offerings at uncommon or rare. The expensive option only really works if the format is slow, and the uncommon/rare cards do a great job of making sure Black's identity is secure in constructed but to a pretty bad job of securing it in limited.

What exactly is Black's color pie in limited now?

You make a lot of really good by oraymw at Sun, 06/28/2015 - 19:34
oraymw's picture

You make a lot of really good comments here, and I can't go through and point out everything that was good, but I wanted to reply re: Red.

I think that red has actually suffered the most from this change in removal. You made the argument that red has always had removal with restrictions, but the difference is that red has scaled worse than any of the other colors relative to the creatures that we face. Shock used to be a top tier common; now it probably wouldn't crack the top ten, just because it is so limited in the things that it can hit.

Thanks, I appreciate it. by a small child at Mon, 06/29/2015 - 00:44
a small child's picture

Thanks, I appreciate it.

You're right that red has suffered in that it's removal hasn't really scaled well with the increased quality of creatures, I'd argue that the dropoff for black has been much more steep. Going from regularly expecting cards like Terror, Dark Banishing, Expunge etc. at common to cards like Disfigure, Defeat, Throttle, Asphyxiate, Victim of Night etc.

IMO the dropoff here is steeper. I think the fact that the good uncommon Black removal (Go For The Throat, Doom Blade, Ultimate Price, etc.) are often considered to be among the top uncommons in the set speaks to the extreme difference between the old style common Black removal and the new style.

Looking at the data you by CalmLittleBuddy at Sun, 06/28/2015 - 09:16
CalmLittleBuddy's picture
5

Looking at the data you provide, this is more than a trend. This is a design philosophy. Creatures are becoming more powerful for the cost while removal is becoming more expensive. Creatures are providing more value (even acting as removal in some cases), while removal rarely does anything additional besides damage or life gain.

When I first started playing Magic in the mid 1990s, all I wanted to do was drop bombs and swing for damage. As control and card advantage became a thing, it took me a while to understand how those aspects affected the game. At a certain point I thought I understood it, but then stopped playing Magic. I returned to the game recently (with a few flings off and on between) and once again wanted to drop bombs and swing for damage. I relearned about control and card advantage over the course of the first three months back, but didn't really use those aspects well.

Point being, new and returning players to Magic can't jump right in and play control strategies. They can play creatures. Wizards knows that if they unleash true 4 mana wraths and one mana removal, new players will turn away from the game very quickly. They have to allow the creature players to have some shot at winning.

One time about 3 months into my return I was playing a black removal based deck against another player online. My deck wasn't even that good, but every threat he dropped, I removed. He yelled at me in chat saying I wasn't playing the game right, and that having 5 removal spells (over the course of like 10 turns) was trolling, and that I had to play a creature or he was going to quit. He really was upset that everything he played got dead before he could use it.

I tried to explain that I had creatures in my deck, but hadn't drawn one yet, and that removing his dudes was a legitimate strategy that he was going to face all the time. I can't repeat what he said after that.

Point is, Wizards has gradually tightened up the ratio of removal to creatures and tilted the cost gradually to allow 'fair' decks and creature based strategies to exist at all levels of play. What we as players lose in cheap removal, we gain in the growth of popularity of this game. I think Wizards is for the most part getting it right. I just played in GP Providence and the number of players at that 'smaller' Grand Prix was mind boggling.

At some point the trend will level off. For the most part, it already has. 4 mana seems to be the default for unconditional 1 for 1 removal, 3 if there's a double black requirement. Wraths cost 5, usually with a double color cost. I think that's the sweet spot and it will stay there for a long time. There may be some powerful exceptions here and there that they toss in to mix it up (there's one in Origins that I predict will shift the balance of power --- Languish).

Good stuff!

For sure it's a design by oraymw at Sun, 06/28/2015 - 19:29
oraymw's picture

For sure it's a design philosophy. I had known that WotC was trying to nerf removal over time, but I found it fascinating to see how that played out in the numbers.