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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Apr 28 2015 11:00am
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Before we get to the main topic of this article, there's an elephant in the room I have to cover: someone decided to take my original list (from my first article) and post it on Magic's Facebook page posing as the real thing, and that ended up on MTG Salvation. I never saw the original post (I'm assuming it has been deleted by now), and I don't know how far it went (I saw some Twitter discussion at least), though MTG Salvation did find my article eventually. Just to make things clear: I never have tried to misrepresent my designs as nothing more than speculation, even though that would have been a good idea for hype (for example, someone posted a Rayman design for Super Smash Bros and posted it as the real thing, just to get promotion for his design series). Still, at the very least it gave me some feedback on my concepts (even if it was an old list), and I'll actually make note of some of them later in my Version 7.1 update.

On the topic of unconfirmed lists, this list of some rares and most of the mythics has been circulating around, and it's getting a lot more traction since the source has spoiled Modern Masters-related stuff before.  It came out after I finalized the list below, and frankly, I don't believe it.  I mean, nothing about it is completely unreasonable (though Splinter Twin at mythic and Incendiary Command at all is certainly suspicious), but that's part of the problem.  Still, if we assume it is real, it contains 17 cards (not counting the confirmed mythics), and I hit on 9 of them (counting All is Dust, which I add later, but not the mythic Splinter Twin), which isn't a horrible start.  Anyway, onto the main topic:

When I first revealed my Modern Masters 2015 design, I had been working on it for a while. In fact, the version I wrote about there was already Version 6.1. In this article I'll be updating it to Version 7.1, but that is barely enough for a full article. Instead, since this is the last article I will be writing on Modern Masters 2015 before previews start (my self-imposed deadline), I thought it would be an interesting idea to cover all the iterations of the set, including those before I started writing for PureMTGO. The nice thing for this retrospective is that I've been keeping the entire changelog in my design spreadsheet, just for something like this. Let's start at the beginning:

Version 1: July 17, 2014

Even from the start of the design, a lot of my core ideas were here. The major thing I'll be tracking in this retrospective are the archetypes, so I'll start with the baseline:

WU: Gating

UB: Mill

BR: Graveyard/Madness

RG: Eldrazi Spawn

GW: Elves

WB: Allies

UR: Elementals

BG: Infect

RW: Landfall Aggro

GU: Graft/Proliferate

As you can see, seven of the ten color pairs have the same archetypes as they do now, but three have changed, drastically in some cases. To start, we have GW Elves, which actually has its roots in an old, unpublished article about how I would improve Modern Masters 1 (where I replaced Thallids with Elves since Elves are more popular and needed some reprints). Most of the archetype exists here, except it was much more powerful—Elvish Promenade was even at common for exactly one playtest.

 

The second archetype that hasn't persisted through the revisions is BG Infect, and this one had everything against it from the start. Infect as an archetype has four main factors going against it: it is inherently disliked by many players, the cards are mostly useless in other archetypes, it is extremely hard to balance such a linear strategy, and the interaction between it and the Graft archetype is very bad and NWO-unfriendly. I feel like my initial attempt at the archetype wasn't that bad: I gave it all of its power cards (Glistener Elf, Plague Stinger, Flesh-Eater Imp, Mutagenic Growth), but I limited its depth—the pump effects weren't that great (Might of the Masses and Earthbrawn have been the standard since the beginning) and there weren't that many creatures with Infect total in the set. Of all the archetypes I've discarded, Infect (in some form) is the most likely to show up in the actual Modern Masters 2015 set, since most of the balancing problems could likely be solved with enough time and playtesting.

 

The final unused archetype that hasn't persisted is a very weird one: UR Elementals. This was actually the first archetype I thought of for the set, and what gave the idea to make the set in the first place. The basic concept was to move Ceaseless Searblades to common and combine it with a lot of varied Elementals with activated abilities, from Soulbright Flamekin to Cinder Pyromancer to Tideforce Elemental. This archetype stays around for a while, but its failure ultimately revolves around a 2/4 for 4 with virtual firebreathing not being nearly good enough in set with such a high power level.

 

Version 2: August 5, 2014

Version 2 of Modern Masters 2015 mainly realigns the archetypes so they're much closer to the current lineup: Infect is replaced by Elves, and GW Auras fills the spot left by Elves shifting colors. The biggest problem with this version is Auras, as both Griffin Guide and Boar Umbra were downgraded to common.

 

Version 3: August 15, 2014

Version 3 doesn't change any of the archetypes, but it does make three major changes to them. The first is moving Gating to the current archetype idea, moving away from a reliance on Stormfront Riders and Azorius Aethermage by adding the Reality Acid engine (along with the Vanishing mechanic in general) and lots of value creatures. The second is a major weakening of Auras by moving Griffin Guide and Aura Gnarlid to uncommon. The final change is putting Chandra's Spitfire at common to try and strengthen the Elemental archetype—that did strengthen the archetype, but at the expense of over-centralizing the archetype around Chandra's Spitfire. Not only is Chandra's Spitfire probably too good for common for itself (if you assume it can regularly be a 4/3 flier for 3), it could easily get out of hand, especially with Cinder Pyromancer.

 

Version 4: December 8, 2014

This was the first version of the set to come out after Modern Masters 2015 was officially announced, and even with the long time between sets it was a minor revision. Other than making the first attempt to awkwardly fit Metalcraft into the set to accommodate the reveal of Etched Champion, the major changes were removing Traps from the set, as well as weakening Allies by removing Join the Ranks and moving Talus Paladin back to rare.

 

Version 5: December 18, 2014

This was my biggest update I had done in a while—it was so big that I split it into two parts in my changelog. The main reason for this is because I finally changed the UR archetype from Elementals to a weird hybrid of Artifacts and Phyrexian Mana. As such, a lot of Phyrexian Mana spells needed to be added across all the colors (so I could support Rage Extractor, as well as adding artifacts without cutting colored spells), leading to a lot of changes. I also made a bunch of balancing changes (most notably finally moving Boar Umbra back to uncommon) and overhauled the rares, which ballooned the update to a total of 37 slots changed. In addition, I made another “minor” balancing update two days later that changed another 16 slots.

 

Version 6: January 27, 2015

This update is the one shown in my original two articles (minus the minor updates for the newly-spoiled Karn Liberated and Tarmogoyf), and its major contribution is undoing the mistakes of trying to add the UR Artifacts theme. It was just too weird, and I don't like how it took cards from every color (and Birthing Pod getting banned certainly didn't help matters). Instead, it got replaced with the UR Spells/Wizards archetype, which is the best attempt so far for a UR archetype. Most of the other changes involved reversing all the other changes from adding all the Phyrexian mana spells, as well as some other balancing.

 

Version 7: April 4, 2015

I just covered this update in detail a couple weeks ago, but as a summary, this was mostly a balancing update, as well as adding value to the set.

 

Now that we're back to the current state of the set, it's time to go over my final update for the set. However, since this is the last update, I'm going to do things differently and split this update into two parts. The first part is going to be the standard updates for balancing reasons, just like all my other updates. After that, I'm going to do some updates based on predicting the actual contents of Modern Masters 2015 (including some number-crunching). Let's start with the eleven standard updates:

Consecrated Sphinx Vendilion Clique

Consecrated SphinxVendilion Clique

Fun fact: I started working on this update on Tuesday, right after my last article went up, and I had already made this change before Vendilion Clique was officially spoiled. Still, this is an obvious change (though I admit I didn't expect new art), especially after all the comments in the Salvation thread noted that two-thirds of the mythics were from Scars block, something I didn't realize before (three planeswalkers, the Praetor cycle, Mox Opal, and Sphinx).

Hinder Remand

HinderRemand

This should an easy change, but I'm worried that it's being affected a lot by future information Wizards wouldn't know when they were designing the set. On one hand, Remand being reprinted in Duel Decks: Jace vs Vraska didn't bring its price down as expected. On the other, Hinder's appeal (and price) was lessened with the change of the tuck rule in Commander. Regardless, I like the interaction of Remand with the UR Spells archetype.

Lose Hope Stabbing Pain

Lose HopeStabbing Pain

This is one of the most minor changes I could make, but I like giving UB Mill another tool to stall games a bit. Then again, I love the design of Stabbing Pain (as well as tapping in Black in general), so this might be a personal bias.

Agadeem Occultist Hypnotic Specter

Agadeem OccultistHypnotic Specter

Yes, Agadeem Occultist was one of the worst cards in the set, and Allies doesn't need two rares (heck, Rebels didn't need any rares or uncommons), so it needs to get replaced. The problem is that I have no clue what small creature to fill the slot with. Hypnotic Specter is filler for now, and could still be cool if they gave it new art.

Intimidator Initiate Jackal Familiar

Frostling Mogg Fanatic

Intimidator InitiateJackal Familiar

FrostlingMogg Fanatic

These two changes go together since they're my last attempt to balance the failing RW Aggro archetype. These are mostly just upgrades in power, but Jackal Familiar is interesting with all the Eldrazi Spawn in the set.

Ember Hauler Crimson Mage

Ember HaulerCrimson Mage

Ember Hauler has been surprisingly underwhelming since the beginning, and I'm finally shaking up the slot with Crimson Mage. There are the obvious applications of Haste for RW Aggro, but giving an Eldrazi haste can also be interesting.

Koth of the Hammer Dragonmaster Outcast

Koth of the HammerDragonmaster Outcast

This is a last-minute change in response to having too many Scars block mythics, and I'm not sure how much I like it. I don't mind Koth leaving the set that much (especially since Sorin Markov is staying), but there aren't many reasonable options to replace it with, especially if you assume you don't want both Splinter Twin and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in the same set with Deceiver Exarch. Dragonmaster Outcast works, but only if Wizards expected the price increase with the release of Dragons of Tarkir.

Awakening Zone Doubling Season

Awakening ZoneDoubling Season

I like this since it has a different context than MMA1—instead of just being focused on one archetype (Thallids), it serves a lot of purposes here. At the top level, there are Elf tokens, Eldrazi Spawn, as well as the Graft archetype, and that doesn't even count any off-color uses (such as Allies or the soldiers from Stormfront Riders).

Giant Solifuge Manamorphose

Giant SolifugeManamorphose

In all my drafts, I seemed to be the only one to respect Giant Solifuge, and it always seemed too good to me, especially as I removed some of the Elf tokens from the set (though I didn't get much testing with Rain of Embers in the environment). In addition, it doesn't feel like a reasonable rarity downgrade, and Hell's Thunder fills a lot of the same role. I don't like weakening RW Aggro (an archetype that's clearly hurting), but replacing it with Manamorphose gives UR Spells another tool to do cool things.

Memory Plunder River's Grasp

Memory PlunderRiver's Grasp

Memory Plunder is another one of the rarity downgrades that wasn't holding its weight—I wanted it to do cool things in UR Spells, but that UUUU casting cost made it unplayable (and no one played it in Mill either). River's Grasp is mostly filler since this needs to be a hybrid slot, but I also like that it doesn't leave Cankerous Thirst as the only spell of its kind after Torrent of Souls left.

 

That's part one of the update, and where I would stop if I was working in isolation. However, since a secondary goal of this design is to match the actual design of Modern Masters 2015, the one piece of information I haven't used so far is the collector numbers of the spoilers we have so far. I don't like to do this, since it's curve-fitting (making your prediction match example data often makes it useless as a prediction) and not really design at all, but since it's the last update I figured I could do a bit of it. I did a lot of math and wrote a lot of words on the subject (which you can find here if you're interested) and ended up with a partial solution. The first part of the solution is six simple changes, which I am going to add to Version 7.1, since I don't feel they hurt the set that much.

Venser, the Sojourner All is Dust

Venser, the SojournerAll is Dust

This fills in the missing colorless slot before (Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn), though unfortunately at the cost of the most interesting cards in the set. Then again, Venser, the Sojourner isn't the best mythic, and this clears the way for another good change:

Draining WhelkVenser, Shaper Savant

Venser, Shaper Savant is what this spot always wanted to be, but I didn't want both the creature and the planeswalker in the set at the same time for obvious reasons. I am worried both that it is too powerful in UW Gating, but it should be fine as a rare. As a bonus, it comes after Vendilion Clique to help the number-crunching.

Ulamog's Crusher Artisan of Kozilek Augury Adept

Ulamog's CrusherArtisan of Kozilek

Artisan of KozilekAugury Adept

This change helps the number-crunching by removing a colorless card, and also adds back the WU rare. I don't like keeping Artisan of Kozilek at uncommon in a normal set, but there is more removal and not quite as much ramp, so it should be okay.

Turtleshell Changeling Windrider Eel

Memory Erosion Vigean Graftmage

Turtleshell ChangelingWindrider Eel

Memory ErosionVigean Graftmage

Both of these changes move up Vendilion Clique, and do so by changing relatively inconsequential cards. Windrider Eel has been on the short list for a while, but I've been concerned about the number of fliers in the set—maybe I've been worrying too much about it? Vigean Graftmage is also interesting, but I wish I had something better to cut than Memory Erosion—it was a bad downgrade though (and wasn't that good in the set), so it should help my accuracy (which is what these updates are for), even if Blue shouldn't have a 7/3 creature/non-creature split at uncommon.

 

Those are the easy changes I can make with number-crunching. In order to get Vendilion Clique and Tarmogoyf in the right positions, four more cards of each color need to be cut. While I'm not going to go over all these cuts right now (since that would massively destabilize the limited environment, and I don't have the time to balance that), I do have a prediction of how they'll line up: two commons, one uncommon, and one rare will be cut from each color to add five uncommon artifacts, five rare artifacts and/or lands, and a common multicolor cycle. In fact, I am so sure that there is going to be a common multicolor cycle based on the number-crunching that I'm going to make a prediction of what they are, based on my archetypes:

WU: Somnomancer

UB: Soul Manipulation

BR: Monstrous Carabid

RG: Manamorphose (replaced by Giant Solifuge)

GW: Sigil of the Nayan Gods (replaced by Watchwolf)

WB: Pillory of the Sleepless (replaced by Evershrike, which is replaced by Debtors' Knell)

UR: Wee Dragonauts (replaced by Electrolyze)

BG: Golgari Rotwurm

RW: Thundersong Trumpeter (replaced by Lightning Helix)

GU: Vigean Hydropon

 

That's the end of updates for my Modern Masters 2015 design, but certainly not the end of my coverage. I don't know exactly when we'll get the full set, but for my article in two weeks we should at least have the limited archetypes, so I'll be able to compare those at least, and then do the full report card the week afterward. However, next week we'll be taking a break from Modern Masters 2015 and going back to a much older reprint set: the original Masters Edition.

 

Vincent

@CheaterHater1 on Twitter

2 Comments

Missing Links by Cheater Hater at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 13:21
Cheater Hater's picture

I accidentally forgot a couple links in my article:
Design Spreadsheet for Version 7.1:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AsxKKvGkw8skoCE3hiTOAPGrUYrNaW2Q...

Number-Crunching Notes:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzbjSS4r8hXjaE05UjNGc0dwYlU/view?usp=sh...

Also, I've started the ME1 article, and I'm finding it really hard to get to my desired word count (spoilers: it's a really bad design). If there's anything you want to know about the design, let me know!

Cheater Hater's picture

Hooray, the list is a fake, since Splinter Twin is in at rare! Two more hits for me!

As for number-crunching, I'll compare to both of my lists:
Splinter Twin is 129 (149 Main set, ~133 NC-corrected set)
Spellskite is 230 (233 Main set, ~223-233 NC-corrected set)

Obviously this isn't an explicit analysis, but there are two main keys:
1. Splinter Twin would need to move up 4 slots (assuming the Red cuts are all alphabetically before Splinter Twin--I have it tentatively as Ridge Rannet, Concussive Bolt, Lava Hounds, and Hell's Thunder, so that works), which feels like a lot of cards (there are ~200 cards after Splinter Twin alphabetically, ~140 in the range)--stuff like adding New Benalia to White (or Oboro to Blue) could also help.
2. Spellskite is really early, considering there are more artifacts than I thought (though around 200 artifacts are after Spellskite alphabetically, and most in the range)--expect a lot of lands; remember I already have 13 lands in the set.