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By: Jyalt, Judah Alt
Sep 23 2011 7:48am
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Innistrad.  When I first heard the word, I recalled the novel “I, Strahd:  The Memories of a Vampire” by P.N. Elrod,  published by TSR in the Ravenloft dark fantasy setting in the early 1990‘s.  I believe Innistrad is the gothic interpretation of Magic the Gathering, but no one in the flavor department bothered to learn what gothic means.   I’d have made everyone involved with the set read “The Castle of Otranto”, the original gothic novel published in 1764, as part of their job tasks.   I haven’t read it, but I know it exists from Googling "gothic".

Innistrad does not appeal from a cohesive flavor standpoint.  It feels like bad tribal with a dash of power creep poured onto a sanitized version of populist ‘dark creature’ fantasy.   Innistrad could have been a Magic-orientated branding of gothic, or a celebration of real gothic works designed around a magic shell.  Instead a ‘connect the tropes’ game was used to create an ultimately superficial mess, and random non-gothic elements crept in to dilute and undermine. 

Now they did a lot of top-down design, and the best fit cool stylized spikes into a too-small magic based hole.  Nevermore is awesome; everyone gets the Poe, so why not actually quote Poe’s “The Raven” on it?    Please forgive my temptation skills, but which feels more evocative to you?  Even with the unprofessional lack of quotes and smaller text, the Poe gets me.



Cards like this are numerous.   Much of the impact of Innistrad is wasted, because the art is totally awesome.   To me, it felt like with a little extra effort, this could have been like ‘Mirage’ for Gothic Horror, because the art just has that level of excellence.   But the commons in Innistrad don’t have a “Love Song of Night and Day” like Poe's "The Raven" to tie everything together into a unified package.  The flavor text failed.  Totally failed.

Instead a modern ‘Mirage’, here comes Homelands-meets-Buffy-The-Vampire-Slayer strained through modern development processes, so it doesn’t *completely* suck. 

Did anyone come and ask “What gives white a unique identity in Innistrad?”   The answer was defiance and monster slayers, great for half of white.  But here’s a big question… if you were seriously doing gothic, why are angels in white?  The entire point of the gothic novel is the triumph and struggles of humans against immeasurable evil, and they don’t always win.  Angels take away too much of the gothic focus from the humans, and shouldn’t be in the set, unless they are despairing Angels with little power; Angel of Flight Alabaster is a *good* Angel for the set.  The amazing Angelic Overseer just doesn’t fit into this world.  For a gothic feel, she needed to be a legendary human slayer with the similar abilities, instead of an angel.  On that same note, why are a random Abbey Griffin, Silverchase Fox and a hound in the set in white?  How are they gothic?  The only Hounds that should be here are the Hounds of the Baskervilles.   And what is up with Hounds in a set with all the Wolves?  Smells like missed opportunity for werewolf support.

White does terribly in actual Gothic names, which should sound mid-European.  Name a gothic novel that has cathars.  In The Exorcist, we have priests.  In Europe, those angry mobs are all led by *priests*!  One of the big Gothic themes is the priest battling against the hordes of evil devils, resisting temptation.  Cathars?  What sort of gothic world you writing?   Seriously, half of white feels like a dime store fantasy slush pile… Selfless Cathar feels like I’m donating part of my urinary tract.  “Selfless Priest” is a thousand times more gothic.  And don’t get me started on ‘Thraben’ and ‘Avacynian’ as being non-evocative?  Sorry. Avacyn  reminds me too much of a generic brand anti-inflammatory drug.  Still Avacynian Priests were also there with these dumb Cathars?   What a waste.  The extra flavor of white should have been inquisition, capturing the game "Werewolf", where it's werewolves vs. townsfolk... google it if you don't know.

White did good with the cards themselves, but the flavor area needed a major overhaul.

Did anyone ask, “What is green doing in Innistrad?”  and wait for a good answer aside from werewolves?  Every designer needed  a post-it note above their desk stating “Innistrad is the Gothic Set.”  Because in green, it’s an off-theme mess if it isn’t a flip card or werewolf enabler.  If you really look at the green art, you’ve got an homage to The Blob wasted as Gutter Grime.  You’ve got  (Avacyn’s Pilgrim) with terrible flavor text instead of something like ‘Fugitive Abbess’ quoting a famous horror movie about monsters in the monastery.   I mean Bramblecrush and not ‘Vines of the Devil’?   Creeping Renaissance and not ‘Forgotten Soul of the Forest’?  Gothic is poetic ennui!  Did you guys look at your own gorgeous art?  Hollowhenge Scavenger has the art for “The Swamp Thing” and it’s green?   Lumberknot and not anything evocative of human-eating Venus Fly Trap?   To me, it’s obvious the other focus of Innistrad green should have been ravenous and strange plant monsters… chlorofiends, if you read Jim Butcher.  The art supported it.  Plus it would have been cool, a gothic B-movie type of cool.


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Moving on to blue, let’s go more mechanical, since as far as 'mad experiments' flavor goes, blue succeeds.  Though zombies are originally Haitian and not part of European gothic traditions.   (Ugh at the name ’Skaab’… zombies are not union busters!)  Meet the biggest design failure -- Invisible Stalker.  I do not think the Invisible Man, whose condition led him to insanity, when I examine this card.  This is what I think of when I hear ‘Invisible Stalker’:

Invisible Stalker
(Conjuration/Summoning)  6th level
Range: 10 yards
Duration: Special
Area of Effect: Special
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 rd
Saving Throw: None
This spell summons an invisible stalker from the Elemental Plane of Air. This 8-Hit Dice monster obeys and serves the spellcaster in performing whatever tasks are set before it.

You don’t turn a 6th level Dungeons and Dragons spell into a two mana uncommon wizards!  I foresee limited blue being way strong.

R&D Member 1:  Let’s make the Invisible Man.
R&D Member 2:  No, let’s steal a D&D idea instead.
Development:  It’s fun to blow people out by playing Curiosity on this!  Let’s put in a set where the wrath variant can’t kill it either, and let’s not print anything like Pestilence.  Oh, and let’s make a super-awesome common flying enchantment, so it can easily dodge the Pyroclasm variant.
R&D Member 2:  Wait!  Something has to be able to kill it.  The Invisible Man wasn’t the Invincible Man.
Development:  Well OK.  This nine mana rare red sorcery can do it.  Oh, and here’s a situational black uncommon removal spell that makes them sacrifice a creature!  It might work.  Plus Liliana’s second ability; oh wait, mythic.  Oh yeah, you can always counter spell it… hehe blue is awesome!
R&D Member 1:  But the Invisible Man was a human, and the set has awesome common human bonus equipment.  I know in the original book, the Invisible Man had to be naked to be actually invisible, but let’s not go 'too flavor' and let him keep Unblockability and Hexproof if equipped or enchanted.
Development:  Done!  Good thing this wasn’t Shroud, then it would be fine and not broken.   We‘ll smudge a distinction in the color pie by not auto-greening the more powerful Hexproof and leaving blue the 2nd class Shroud.  Our blue is never second class.

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As for the rest of common blue… it’s amazing!  A flash back Unsummon.  A Wormfang Drake reprint that exiles a creature in your graveyard.  A 3/2 flyer for one blue mana (post transform) called Delver of Secrets.  A blue human that makes colorless while filling your graveyard at 1U!  Think Twice is back.  Sure, blue also has a bunch of chaff spells I wouldn’t touch, but blue uncommons are golden too.  It is highly likely you’ll have enough blue playables to use blue at the pre-release, should you desire that winning record.

The mad scientist theme is gothic, but putting blue stitched-back together huge zombies at common and uncommon with extremely efficient mana costs was a mistake.   I love 3/4 flyers for 1UU at common, enjoy groundpounders at 4/5 for 3U at common, and adore 6/9 at 5U in the uncommon slot.  Still, I don’t believe it’s very balanced.    At mythic, the Skaab Ruinator is 5/6 flying for 1UU!  You might need a few creatures in your graveyard, but blue is conveniently full of milling type cards.

Armor of Thorns, Vampiric Embrace, Moldervine Cloak, Griffin Guide, Petrified Plating, Goblin War Paint, Giant StrengthManiacal Rage

See those?  Notice how the ones like the Embrace cycle in Urza's Saga that gave flying were always uncommon and bomby?  Heck, I played Maniacal Rage main deck both times it was printed… tempest and shards block.  Well Innistrad brings us Spectral Flight -- +2/+2 and flying for a low cost of 1U.  Oh, and it’s a common.  Yeah, I’m laughing with you.

Ok, time for red.   If you google the term ‘Balefire’ up comes this at dictionary dot com:

balefire [ˈbeɪlˌfaɪə]
n Archaic
1. a bonfire
2. a beacon fire
3. a funeral pyre
[C14 bale, from Old English bǣl pyre; related to Old Norse bāl flame, pyre, Sanskrit bhāla brightness]

It’s about the eighth entry.  Earlier ones, including the Wikipedia entry, talk about how it’s a signature attack in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that can turn back time itself.  When I say  ‘Balefire’ it does not evoke a magic card, it evokes a scene written by Robert Jordan.  I don’t believe using that name for a dragon was a good design choice.  I'd have cut out Balefire Dragon and stuck in a legendary mythic devil in, one that taps for a Pyroclasm as one of it's abilities.

Now, what is red’s gothic Innistrad identity?  Green has werewolves, blue has zombies, black has vampires and devils, white has monster slayers… what does red have?  Well, red has hellish styled spells like Into The Maw Of Hell and Infernal Plunge and (Heretic’s Punishment) and Blasphemous Act and Ancient Grudge.  But this theme is not dominant like it needed to be.  Gothic Devils should evoke Possession and Seduction, but nowhere in this set is a single Incubus or Succubus.  In that sense, red failed.  Plus what kind of gothic effect is a ‘Rolling Tremblor’?  “Devil’s Knock” would be so much more evocative.

Red uses ‘Geier Reach’ as a localized name.  What happened to Stensia?  You know, from (Stensia Blood Hall)?  ‘Geier’ sounds too much like ‘Geist’  The Scourge of Geier Reach is not a dragon like the Scourge of Kher Ridges; it’s not even a Geist -- it’s an elemental.  My inner Vorthos is crying.

Ashmouth Hound is a hound and not a wolf?  Bad design choice.  The art is a pretty cool flaming wolf.  This is another one I’d have redone, but I’m tired of messing around in paint and want to finish up.  I could redesign 40% of the red cards to be ‘more Innistrad’.

In a limited sense, red is disappointing this set. The 3 mana common that does 5 damage if a creature died is a little too efficient at player killing, but the rest of red needs it to simply keep up.   If any of you remember how weak red was in Odyssey, red in Innistrad has a similar power level.  It’s got the most [useless] curses, the werewolves aren’t as big as the green werewolves, and the Chainflinger is uncommon, requiring the sacrifice of a creature.  I see red having an extremely tough time beating a third turn flying blue 3/4.   Both black/red vampires and green/red werewolves are OK choices thanks to tribal synergy, but I don’t expect to see many Red/X decks that are successful based on the commons and uncommons.  You need to open an in-color bomb to play red, and with Shimmering Grotto, it’s often better to splash it.

I’m not going to criticize the lands and artifacts. The equipment reminds me of stuff lying around the village, I’d use in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  I doubt I could better them there.  The four gold cards are also fine.

This leaves black, which should be the centerpiece of any gothic set.  Innistrad black is too uniform and not interesting enough.  The Gothic trope has a dark, black heart, and black in Innistrad needed something spetacular.  It’s got creative zombie making sorceries and enchantments, and transformative vampires (though the woman opposite the bat on Stalking Vampire does not look 5/5), but black did not step up.  Where’s the awesome vampire werewolf? Where's the "Elemental of Despair" and the "Thirteen Plagues of Hell"?   A minor annoyance was “Why are there a skeleton in Innistrad?”  Innistrad is about zombies and werewolves and vampires.  Not skeletons or weevils.  They just don’t belong.  I can live with one rat and one witch, but the black gothic aspect felt haphazard and unfocused.

The name ‘Skirsdag’ doesn’t inspire fear or feel black, so I checked the anagrams, hoping for a gem of understanding.  “Drag Kiss” popped out at me, and invited a mental picture of heavy metal bands in ragged black leather wearing red lipstick and white face make-up.  That’s like consumerist gothic, not really Innistrad, if it was even intended.  Something like "Darkenwald" would have been more in flavor.

If I had to design black in Innistrad, I feel like I could do better, maybe even a lot better.  I’d want to scrap half the cards and only keep the good ones.  I’d junk:  Altar’s Reap,  Bitterheart Witch (5 mana.. Please), Brain Weevil goes green in exchange for the now swamp-walking swamp thing, change Corpse Lunge to a sorcery with red flashback because it is important to ask the question ‘Is it dead yet?’ (new flavor text) somewhere in the gothic set,  Curse of Oblivion,  change the name of “Disciple of Griselbrand” to “Fallen Priest”,  junk Ghoulcaller’s Chant because it’s dumb without tribal, make Ghoulraiser non-random but unable to target another Ghoulraiser,  Heartless Summoning becomes a slot for an amazing Vampire-Werewolf legendary guy,  Manor Skeleton would turn into a Zombie with Deathtouch instead of regeneration,  Maw of the Mire would become a black version of Spreading Seas,  Morkrut Banshee gets a new name that doesn’t rhyme with ‘Pork butt? Thank ye!’,  Stalking Vampire gets new art,  “Skirsdag High Priest” name changes to ‘Dark Ritualist’ and gives BBB when he dies,  Walking Corpse becomes Headless Horseman (using the legend’s art!) which gains errata for a new casting cost. 

Headless Horseman  Anyone care if he gets errata'd to 1B?

With the common slots opened up, I’d add a common zombie that fights things and gains death touch for a ridiculous mana cost -- 6BB, like a late game invoker,  a flashback Dry Spell that made some reference to blood draining as another way to deal with zombie armies that get out of hand, and a common spell that eats your opponent’s graveyard while giving a bonus to your zombies.  The Curse to replace Curse of Oblivion would be ‘Curse of the Vampire’s Bite’  your non-black spells cost 1 more to play, and have flavor text about seduction.   If possible, I’d also replace the two big demon art with art more suited to Succubus/Incubus because it’s more gothic.

On a power level, I'd put the Army of the Damned at rare and Bloodline Keeper at mythic, because if he ever transforms to Lord of Lineage, game over.  They overpowered that card for limited, because unlike Meloku The Clouded Mirror it's not legendary and makes 2/2 flyers.  I think it's easier to deal with 13 2/2 zombies without evasion on turn 8, than an infinite stream of 2/2 flyers starting turn five, which will eventually become 4/4 flyers.

Finally I want to address two other aspects of the technical design.  First is no tribal.  I’ve never liked tribal much, but I did find it helpful when married with tutoring, in terms of pulling together good constructed decks.  I think by not using Tribal-Zombie on Rooftop Storm and Army of the Damned, the set’s designers effectively killed an interesting standard deck archetype.   I don’t think tribal needs to be an ‘all or nothing’ proposition, and a unique opportunity was missed to make magic more interesting.

Second is the random stuff.  On Creepy Doll, it’s fine.  I can actually see how that uncertainty would be fun in limited.  But on stuff like Ghoulraiser and Make a Wish and the red draw spell… I just don’t like it.  I don’t find coin flipping fun unless it’s interactive somehow.  I’d really prefer ‘opponent’s choice’ instead of random.

This concludes my analysis from a design standpoint.  I really believe this set had the art direction to match or surpass Mirage in world flavor, but the flavor guys blew it.  I hate most of the flavor text, and many of the names do not evoke a gothic feel.  They evoke a ‘I vomited some syllables here, think fantasy, OK?’ feel.  I haven’t read the Innistrad articles online, just taken a long look at the visual spoiler when I dropped by to read the new banned lists.   I do not think I’ll be participating in the paper release or the online pre-release for this set.  Good luck to those of you who are.
 

25 Comments

you did leave out the red and by ShardFenix at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 09:45
ShardFenix's picture

you did leave out the red and black vampires both of which are plentiful. The red vampires are actually better than the black ones in this set...

This article is full of crap. by smack8001 at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 09:46
smack8001's picture

This article is full of crap. "but no one in the flavor department bothered to learn what gothic means" you're apparently in the minority in your opinion.

You've also cited no design qualifications for yourself. You put your only good point, about flavor text, at the beginning and then it's all garbage from there. Even the Flavor text on Nevermore isn't bad, it's pretty good, it just isn't what you want. Seriously, complaining that a DND spell was butchered by Invisible Stalker? Guess what, the idea of an Invisible Stalker isn't exclusive to DND and Invisible Man is a boring name. Red failed because it didn't have a seductress demon (which wouldn't be red in the first place)? Red has demonic stuff that is affiliated with HELLFIRE, you know, something red. Headless Hroseman should be erratad to lower the casting cost? You're on crack, they've never power-level erratad a casting cost in the history of Magic and never will (except in the odd case of a printing error in Alpha).

Everybody is an armchair designer these days, it seems. Man I should write crap articles for free tickets. It seems pretty easy.

a bit hyperbolic... by apaulogy at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 13:12
apaulogy's picture

but I agree.

While I appreciate the author's knowledge and appreciation of Literature (an underrated appreciation in my opinion), most of that is going to be lost on your "average" MTG player. While most of us are into sci-fi/fantasy, I think the strict definition of "gothic" is going to differ from person to person and this set does a great job of capturing a somewhat overgeneralized version of what that is. As far as using Poe or anything like that for flavor text; early on they did use quotes from famous authors. Not sure if they still do, but you have to consider branding. This is THEIR product, and they have to push the world and characters as much as possible. Even if it is on something seemingly subtle as flavor text. It has to do with creating a personal experience between the world of "Dominaria", "Mirrodin", "Phyrexia" etc that relates to the card game...

Your criticism of flavor way have some merit in the eyes of a "purist gothic", your card design criticism is where your lack of actual game design experience really shows. Errata-ing mana costs is a recipe for disaster and anyone who has taken any type of design course would never consider this as an option.

I think this article would be better received as an op-ed piece rather than one of design.

Thank you for your opinon by Jyalt at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 16:31
Jyalt's picture

But I wasn't trying to please you when I wrote this design critique article. No one ever writes good design critique articles. Perhaps not even me, but it really frustrates me when wizards has all the ingredients for a potentially awesome set, and they can't follow through.

My qualifications have been cited in previous articles in the 'Full Value' series.

As for errata regarding a spell's cost... Squall has printed at both 1G (starter) and 2G (masques). Not sure which is the 'real' cost, and I don't care because no one ever plays Squall (it does 2 damage to all flying creatures). If they really want to power-errata a useless common no one plays into a slightly better useless common no one would play, 'the legends version was a printing error' isn't a big stretch.

apaulogy's picture

I wasn't trying to totally lambaste your critique of the set. You do make some points that I agree with...

Also, nice catch on Squall.

However, I think you hit the nail as to why they got away with errating the mana cost of Squall. It is not widely played, so therefore it was low impact...

Imagine if instead of banning Stoneforge Mystic, they just errata'd it's mana cost...madness would ensue from FNM all the way to PTQ level.

That is all. The "balance" part of game design is the hardest one to strike.

I think Gregory Marques writes decent design articles...
Again, I apologize if I came across as harsh. Not my intent. I actually think this was a decent read, being somewhat of a purist myself. Wizards could have done more homework with the flavor design, I called it overgeneralized. I just think maybe the article itself should have been presented differently.

I was a little taken aback by by Paul Leicht at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 10:01
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I was a little taken aback by the usage of orientated when I expected the more common oriented but apparently either suffices.

This would be far better if it didn't feel like a long rant. I realize that for you, Innistrad represents some kind of betrayal of your Vorthos sensibilities but I doubt very much the average magic player feels similarly. And comparing the set to homelands in any way shape or form is just... *Sigh.*

Well Homelands DID try to gain the Gothic feel that you claim is lacking in Innistrad. So there is that.

Yes there are points I agree with here. (Nevermore was a gaff for sure.) But overall I am feeling rather underwhelmed by your critique. The set is exciting and interesting to me even with the flaws you point out.

If you really wanted to talk about top down design (and how not to do it) why not show some original examples (using Magic Set Editor or its ilk)? I, for one, would have preferred to see that.

I do agree with you the art is outstanding. I didn't universally love Mirage's art so I would say the art here may be much better. (I need to see the cards more and absorb the flavor of the art before I decide.)

Was this an article by howlett23 at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 10:15
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1

Or just someone upset that their idea of gothic and card design is WAY OFF of most other peoples? I stopped reading after the oversized, butchered Man-Eating tree scenario... not to be too critical, but this sucked.

Try again

Mark Rosewater addressed the by GainsBanding at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 12:21
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Mark Rosewater addressed the Headless Horseman issue here:

http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/161

They had it in, but had to replace it because they needed a 1B Zombie for limited.

And they never errata printed casting costs. That would lead to an absolute mess of a game. If Headless Horseman, how about Stoneforge Mystic, or Jace, or Batterskull, or Ancestral Recall? It would be a mess. See Aaron Forsythe's comment here:

http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Discussion.aspx?multiverseid=16440

I appreciate you are going by char49d at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 14:09
char49d's picture

I appreciate you are going for some sort of comedic aside with the invisible stalker dialogue section, but it comes off as childish, particularly the bits about blue. While I actually agree shroud is more fitting than hexproof, they made the decision to print only hexproof in this set and M12 for whatever reason, probably simplicity and flavor. Invisible Stalker isn't even as good as Troll Ascetic, and that card saw limited constructed play.

The Man-Eating Tree type design was very good, albeit blurry. I would personally have loved to see more of it.

Apples and Oranges by dangerlinto at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 14:37
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Regardless of how poorly it was written or argued, it's a fair point to be taken that Troll Ascetic wasn't *unblockable*

Yeah, it just regenerated and by char49d at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 17:05
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Yeah, it just regenerated and had enough power to be relevant without equipment or auras, and despite that was unplayable.

Your article... by Fred1160 at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 14:58
Fred1160's picture

I don't think this article is written any worse than any of the other dreck I
see on this website. Having said that, I agree that Wizards could have done much
better than they did. Most of the cards gave me the impression that they just
mailed it in with zero effort.
I, too, have met some of the "brains" at WOTC and they don't impress me at all.
Of course, the knee-jerk response to that statement is, "who are you to criticize Wizards?"
Blah, blah, blah...
Easy answer: I'm a customer and have been since 1995. Even when the formats were warped
by stupid cards and the sets were awful, I stayed on. The game survives and thrives
because of the players and not Wizards. If anything, it thrives in spite of Wizards.
Innistrad is an attempt to "dial down" the power creep that's been happening for years
and it's going to take some getting used to.

I don't agree with everything by walkerdog at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 17:46
walkerdog's picture

I don't agree with everything you have to say but you nailed it with blue getting hexproof. Their reasoning for that was awful; blue should NOT get ways to do everything when it is already built around doing the best things (counter, draw, bounce that threat you missed earlier, steal a dude, etc).

Rating by walkerdog at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 17:47
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4

Rating

I think you could use more by protocol_7 at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 20:54
protocol_7's picture

I think you could use more constructive feedback on your article. No one wants to read that kid whine in the corner because he didn't get the cookie (Even if he deserved it). A good review should be about how you think they could improve the set not focusing on what's BAD.

On the other hand, I do agree that cards like nevermore are very thoughtless.

Jyalt's picture

--the use of Poe's "Raven" as over-arching flavor text, much like the "Love Song of Night and Day" supported Mirage, perhaps even going so far as to rename "Avacyn" to "Lenore"
--the use of "Priest" rather than "Cathar"
--make the set's mythic angel a legendary human monster slayer instead
--the use of plant monsters as a secondary unifying theme in green, visual example provided
--mechanically, the use of shroud in blue, rather than hexproof
--Balefire Dragon turning into a gothic devil
--the use of creature type -- 'wolves' over 'hounds' in the 'werewolf' set
--better use of succubus/incubus in templating red devils
--less use of coin flipping randomness in exchange for 'opponent's choice'
--switching of rarities between the mythic 'army of darkness' and the broken rare vampire lord who taps to make 2/2 flyers
--making 'army of darkness' zombie tribal even if it was the only tribal spell in the set
--redesign of black commons, laundry list provided, including many new designs
--more that I missed in this quick summary...

All of that was how I thought the set could be improved, and I didn't focus only on the bad... I repeatedly compliment the art and do mention I agree with design choices (artifacts, lands, gold).

If you could be specific about the 'whiny' parts, I'll make sure to avoid those next time, otherwise you are leaving me an impression you didn't read the article.

If you insist, " My inner by protocol_7 at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 23:13
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If you insist,

" My inner Vorthos is crying." - This basically sums up my point. I really didn't feel like I was reading a fair review. It was more of a rant from a Vorthos player. This alienates 90% of the readers. While flavour and artwork is important, majority of the readers are here to play.

" I could redesign 40% of the red cards to be ‘more Innistrad’."-I'm better than you 'feel'

"If I had to design black in Innistrad, I feel like I could do better, maybe even a lot better. I’d want to scrap half the cards and only keep the good ones. "
- another I'm better than the entire wotc staff

"I do not think I’ll be participating in the paper release or the online pre-release for this set. Good luck to those of you who are."- This screams "I'm too good for this shit. I'm outta here." I really don't think this fits the tone of a review.

"Sorry. Avacyn reminds me too much of a generic brand anti-inflammatory drug. Still (Avacynian Priest)s were also there with these dumb Cathars? What a waste. "

Maybe you should read some of the Innistrad articles. Those improvement you mentioned were already addressed(see above about horsemen etc). You said you didn't read the articles online, but you reviewed the set. That's pure arrogance.

Specifics appreciated by Jyalt at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 23:46
Jyalt's picture

Thank you for the specifics. I read the spoiler and looked at the visual spoiler, and that was really it. If I'm going to offer design criticism on a product, I don't like reading what other people have said about it, because then I might not be forming my own objective opinion. If I repeated what was said elsewhere, then maybe I got something right. If you believe forming my own opinion about something, based only the product itself, and not based on other people's opinions is arrogant, then I admit to arrogance.

I tried to offer criticism from each of the the psychographics. Next time I'll be more blatant about this. Thanks.

If I didn't think I could do better than wotc, at least in some sense, a design review would be pointless to write; I'd just be a cheerleader. But I did not intend an 'I'm better than you' vibe as strongly as you felt it.

I do not plan to participate in the paper events due to other commitments, not because I'm a pretentious critic or looking down on wotc. For the online events I don't want to pay the extra tickets and can wait. Ever since they raised entry to 30tix I never do release events online.

Avacyn really does remind me of an anti-inflammatory, and putting an in-Gothic priest next to non-Gothic Cathar still strikes me as not so smart. But yeah, the 'sorry' and 'what a waste' make it too whiny. I'd rather be perceived as arrogant than as apologetic.

No problem. I don't want to by protocol_7 at Sat, 09/24/2011 - 01:12
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No problem. I don't want to sound like an ass either. I was a bit harsh. I can admit that. I just thought it would be a good idea to read from developer's point of view. For examples, the flip cards are definitely controversial and articles explained why they made it that way.( I personally don't like it for drafts. It's ridiculously complicated for new players and screams "we will never print morph cards "). The obvious rip off of The Invisible man was given a one line explanation.

You do have some good point though and it is nice to read from a more Vorthos point of view. Just because most people are not Vorthos, it doesn't mean people don't want to read it. I do like artwork and flavour text but most of the time I just glance over them and not really 'read' it. The only I ever notice is "ohh cool art work!, hey that guy/girl drew that other card I liked too!". I think your article would be fantastic if it wasn't review but something else.

I did like your comment about Innistrad having Buffy the Vampire slayer feel. It does. But I also understand why this is inevitable. Wotc has to appeal to a very large audience in age and culture and they have to sell. I'm getting bored with bloodsucking vampires, werewolves with six packs and zombies a little.

I reread it (I found it by walkerdog at Fri, 09/23/2011 - 22:41
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4

I reread it (I found it interesting enough and you have written some really quality pieces before) and I think it's mostly your tone that was "off". You can be critical while still being rational. This article had a tone of anger and unfocused irritation that my drunken forum posts do. I think that you could have taken a step back and touched this up a little for a really good critical piece. You have some valid points; you just don't make them well in this article.

I think you're completely off-base by toolazy2stand at Sat, 09/24/2011 - 12:00
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My apologies if some of these criticisms are addressed later but I essentially stopped reading after your rant on the Invisible Man (which is undeserved first of all, it's not going to be that strong in limited).

The biggest thing is that they never said it was a GOTHIC set, they said it was a HORROR set, it's just going to have a GOTHIC look, you seem to be misunderstanding their aim a lot (so it makes sense why you're disappointed). Secondly, I think the creative persons at Wizards have a better internal knowledge and research skills about what Gothic is than "let me google Gothic and read the first book that comes up" like you so generously offered.

Secondly, they've stated before that only core sets can receive real-world flavor text, thus they wouldn't put a Poe quote, no matter how much you think it fits. It surprises me how you say that Wizards instead of having a "a Magic-orientated branding of gothic, or a celebration of real gothic works designed around a magic shell. Instead a ‘connect the tropes’ game was used to create an ultimately superficial mess, and random non-gothic elements crept in to dilute and undermine". And then you go ahead and make the Nevermore card a completely superficial 'connect the Gothic allusion' card that exists entirely in its own vacuum without any connection to the world of Innistrad (save the art).

Sorry to be so critical, and I'm usually not (other posters who've been familiar with my posting can hopefully attest) but I think you're just so off-base here, I had to say something. Feel free to discuss, defend, criticize me.

I'm sorry, sir, I stopped by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 09/24/2011 - 22:28
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1

I'm sorry, sir, I stopped giving you ANY credit after 4 lines when you just admitted you never read The Castle of Otranto (which I did), still you apparently think the creative staff of Innistrad didn't and should have read it. How you know they don't, since you don't? How you know they should, while you don't know what you're talking about? If anything, the atmosphere of Innistrad is very reminescent of The Castle of Otranto, which isn't "gothic" in the way you think it is (it comes before Romanticism, and more than a century before the full bloom of gothic literature; it's more akin a fantastic tale).

Also, as I see the comment above mine is pointing out as well, the fact that Innistrad was about literary gothic is just a fantasy of yours.

And finally, no, they can't quote Edgar Allan Poe on cards anymore. Because Poe isn't a fictional character in the world of Innistrad, and they stopped referring real life places and authors, like, 15 years ago. It would be like if Tolkien, at some point, made Gandalf quote Dante Alighieri.
The flavor text for Innistrad is brilliant because it tells a story of its own, if you just bother to read it in the right way instead of using it to fuel misplaced, smugness-filled criticism.
Please stick to writing about what you know well, whatever it is.

I see you have opinions by Jyalt at Sat, 09/24/2011 - 23:13
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While I haven't read the "Castle of Otranto" itself, I have read the online cliff notes, which tell me that the book is considered to have originated the 'Gothic' movement -- it was the very first work of Gothic literature that is recognized as Gothic. In that sense is it proto-Gothic and invaluable if you attempting to understand how 'Gothic' originated. And if I was involved in an endeavor focusing on Gothic, I'd want to be familiar with it. I do my homework. But I'm not interested in reading a work of old literature just to say I've read it, nor will I lie about what I have and haven't read to make myself sound erudite.

I never said Innistrad was *Literary* gothic, I said it was the gothic set, which includes gothic horror and literary gothic and even Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer (and Twilight) consumerist gothic. I make that distinction (apparently not clearly enough) in the article.

They can make whatever sort of cards they want to make. Just because someone at wizards has said something in the past, doesn't make it gospel. Major changes like double sided cards and mythic rarity and even redoing major rules (legend rule in Kamigawa) are common if you look long term. So yes, if they felt it added to a set, they could quote real flavor text. I think it would have added to Innistrad. They could add famous works alongside their own stories; it isn't written on pewter tablets signed by Richard Garfield and stamped with the Hasbro logo that real world text is verbotten. And I get you love the set, but I found the flavor text you think is so brilliant to be uninspired dreck.

Thank you for the comments. If I write one of these again, I will endeavor to be less smug and more coherent.

Warning: For like-minded Vorthos only! by RoninX at Sun, 09/25/2011 - 00:20
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1

Thanks to Kumagoro for doing a good job summing up my view of this article. Let me add a couple more points though...

Your cogent points were lost in the flood of non sequuntur (why do we care if something completely unrelated rhymes with "pork butt"?).

Moreover, of your illustrated attempts at improvement (Nevermore, Headless Horseman, and "Man Eating Tree") two were unworkable given current restraints and the third is exactly the type of card that WotC has been moving away from for years (niche cards that invalidate certain strategies). Given that you don't address these issues I have to wonder what your credentials to put forth this design review are.

Clearly laying out how you approach the game and your review (e.g.: highly subjective Vorthos review) at the top might help your audience find you, and let the rest of us move on.

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