Looking at a Random Card: Circle of Protection: White

(What am I doing here? Read here!)

Circle of Protection: White: A non-creature! But a really old card (as old as they come, actually) again…

It’s funny: I just wanted to add a quick entry to this category, but then got hold up by noticing a few mistakes (wrong card names and a wrong link resulting from them) in old entries which I thought I might want to refer to, and correcting them. That took a while, so I have an additional incentive to keep this a bit shorter than usually.

I already talked about different kinds of hosers when I was musing about Guerilla Tactics. I also already said a few things about Circles of Protection in my Manabarbs entry, most importantly that the Circles were overpowered, unfair and frustrating to play against. That is just it. A single card, especially a cheap and splashable one, should not be able to shut down all damage capacity (barring explicit exceptions, like cards saying their damage cannot be prevented) from a color. While all five of the original Circles have seen at least a little constructed use at some time, the only ones of real importance were those against Red and Black (because those colors couldn’t deal with them), and here especially the anti-red one (because against the only really strong mono-black deck, Classic Necro, Karma was much stronger; because mono-red decks were almost always viable, while mono-Black has fallen on hard times since Magic’s early years; and because the damage potential of single red cards you could expect to face was much higher than those of black cards).

You usually didn’t run Cop White in your sideboard, because at the time when White Weenie was an important metagame factor and that Circle available, White Weenie usually already ran 4 Disenchant maindeck and seldom had a reason to side them out even if it didn’t expect Circles (Nevinyrral’s Disk, Mishra’s Factory, Serrated Arrows, Icy Manipulator, combo parts… you always found good Disenchant targets), which made using the Circle a risky proposition: If you relied on it (and what was the point of using it if you didn’t rely on it?), one Disenchant could ruin your day. (Also, one of White Weenie’s best weapons against control was Armageddon, which would usually leave your Circle useless.)

But that only means that this Cop wasn’t as STRONG; it doesn’t imply that it was ever a FAIR card. It is a typical random hoser, and it would leave honest, fair strategies, when they could not find that Disenchant, completely helpless – if a game revolves around answering a single card, that is terrible gameplay (this is the more true the less effort your opponent had to invest in that card).

It’s even worse in limited (even though there are usually few mono-colored decks), since an opponent might actually not have a way to deal with a Circle, and even if he does, it might still not be correct to play it, even after sideboarding; but also, because Circles are here useful against two-colored decks, too. Circles were one of the major reasons limited sucked when they were common (and making them uncommon did certainly not improve their play value, but just made sure that those terrible cards showed up less often).

Where Circles REALLY suck, however, is in casual – how much fun is it if your honest Griffin tribal deck is being shut down by a random Circle? (And how much fun are those Circle decks some people like to run, usually in conjunction with Sleight of Mind effects?)

To be fair, in contrast to Deathgrip the Circle doesn’t COMPLETELY bereave you of your ability to play your deck at all – you can still defend yourself and wait patiently for a way to get around or get rid of the Circle, and if you play another color, it is usually not worth bringing in against you (while Deathgrip still is). On the other hand, I cannot give it the slight upgrade Deathgrip got because that card might at least be useful in an out-of-control metagame to keep an otherwise overpowered strategy in check, and this CoP fails here – it is just annoying, but neither powerful nor reliable enough to fulfill that role. Overall, just like Deathgrip, it is a card which should never have existed in the first place and features only the smallest saving grace preventing it from getting the worst grade possible (a fully fledged F). So, this is again an F+.

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3 Comments on “Looking at a Random Card: Circle of Protection: White”

  1. Blamayer Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this review. This extreme color hosing of the early days was just ridiculously unfun. What makes it even worse, I think, is that new players are magically attracted to these circles because they don’t realize how extremely lousy they play. I remember playing 3 circles of each in my very first sideboards, and while I appreciate the learning curve (i.e. learning that red and black are the best), no game has ever become more exciting because of them.

    I actually think Karma is better in this regard. It’s more painful, sure, but at least it ends the game in a few turns, instead of dragging it out for dozens of turns in which the circle-player can only spend a fraction of his mana on each of his turns. I remember Stasis-decks being hated because of the same reasons as the CoPs, just in a more obnoxious way.

    Incidentially, the color hosing is also one of the Pokemon trading card game’s main weaknesses (haven’t played that game in ten years, but I think they still haven’t removed it).

    • frankschacherer Says:

      I think the red circle was especially valued because of the larger amount of direct damage spells in red. Creatures in black or red could attack turn after turn and at least tie up the circle player’s mana. Red direct is one-shot, making the circle more powerful against it.

      Furthermore, creatures could be blocked. You couldn’t block direct damage, and that too made the circle more useful against red.

  2. Simon Rau Says:

    Circles were the first cards that got banned in our early casual days.

    I still have a soft spot for them, because i liked the way white could handle everything (Wrath, Armageddon, Disenchant, Protection…) and became my favourite color.
    But thats more Nostalgia than anything else. They play horribly and take too many slots in whites card pool space for limited on top of that.

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