Looking at a Random Card: Matca Rioters
(What am I doing here? Read here!)
Matca Rioters: Score’s 15-2 in favor of creatures now. We’re reaching regions where I doubt Gatherer’s random card feature would pass the chi-square test…
I just talked about “hidden” multicolor cards when reviewing Drowned. This is another, slightly different example: While it is just green, it obviously wants you to play other colors (or, to be more precise, lands with basic land types corresponding to other colors), but doesn’t care which exactly (though, obviously, as many as possible!)
As is usual with the domain mechanic, the Rioters are barely playable with a domain count of 2, decent with one of 3 and above-average strong for their mana cost with a count of 4 or 5. That is just as it should be, since it matches their intent in multicolor environments perfectly: They need to be unappealing but not useless with domain(2), so that players do not avoid them for being too unreliable, and they have to be at “normal” power level with domain(3), since this is the standard for decks in multicolor environments. A higher domain count is something you have to work for actively even in those environments, and that’s why you get a special reward for doing so.
Clearly, they only work in multicolor environments – just like Drowned – but other than that card, they do actually incentivize you to embrace the multic0lor theme (or at least the domain mechanic, which will almost always, but not always mean the same thing). They work great at common rarity and are easily splashable (another good thing in multicolor environments). Also, they have two interesting creature types, human and warrior (although I’m not using human tribal in my cubes).
In constructed, they’re a miss, though – a player with a domain count high enough to make the Rioters interesting has obviously a lot of other creature options to choose from, many of which will be more appealing. The card’s flavor is a mixture of hinting at the somehow meso-american nature of Naya and making fun of enthusiastic sports fan in our world – that’s okay, but a slight bit awkward.
One thing to note is that they’re green – meaning they’re in the color most likely to enable multicolor play (and specifically a high domain count) easily in any environment. This makes them somehow more flexible than – for example – being white. You could design an environment where Green wants to be played together with other colors, but the other colors don’t. (Since Green almost always gets colorfixing at common, many, many sets play that way in limited, which I find somehow annoying. I actually often shy away from using effects like Rampant Growth in favor of stuff like Nature’s Lore in my cubes, because I hate it if Green seems to exist mainly to facilitate the playing of OTHER colors.)
Other complaints I have about them are minor – actually more a list of possible additional merits they lack: They do not present subtle, yet meaningful choices in a draft in the way Grixis Slavedriver does, and while they scale well with a higher domain count, the reward for getting that count up to 5 just doesn’t feel quite rewarding enough. These concerns are in no way a reason to downgrade the card from the B it deserves for being an overall good limited card, but without them there is nothing to offset the slight downgrade they get due to being disappointing in constructed and not quite clicking flavorwise. Thus, in the end, all comes down to this: A well-designed card, but with just the faintest taste of missed opportunities – a B-.