I like spoilers, but maybe not this one

Thanks to a single person, who seems to have been able to already open a booster box of Return to Ravnicanearly all cards from this set are known now – there are only 2 mythics, 4 rares and 4 uncommons missing. Some people complain about these cards being spoiled so early, because this SPOILS their fun (this is where the term stems from, after all), but I disagree: First of all, you do NOT have to look at a spoiler if you do not want to. Secondly, Wizards themselves have already for more than two weeks been busy spoiling cards, either on their own site or via official previews given to other parties, and they have purposefully shown us the most interesting and spectacular cards first. Oh, and thirdly, Wizards will spoil the complete set themselves before the prereleases start!

So, don’t claim this inofficial leak could take away any fun from opening your first boosters at the prerelease. If you do not follow the official spoilers, there is absolutely no reason to look at an inofficial one, and if you do follow them, you have already seen nearly everything Wizards deemed interesting enough to show you – all the new mechanics and themes, the cool mythics and the obvious tournament staples at rare. All that’s left are mostly limited fillers bound to disappoint you, unless you care about limited and want to prepare – and remember, even those will be spoiled by Wizards themselves prior to the prereleases. The only difference is that you now have a little more time to digest the set before you play with it – and that is a good thing in my book.

I concede it COULD be fun to play with a new set without anyone knowing anything about it beforehand (I believe that was what we did at the Tempest prerelease, where I went 7:0 because I was just better at snap-evaluating the new cards and the environment than most other players – ah, memories of great times!), but that option simply doesn’t exist anymore. The question is: Are you content with the pace and the order at which Wizards shows you the new cards, or do you prefer to see more of them earlier? Note that Wizards, of course, claim that the way they go about it is to maximize our enjoyment of discovering the new set – but, of course, that is bullshit: They seek to maximize interest in the set, which is NOT the same thing, and they cater to the largest portion of their audience with their approach. As someone who loves to analyze limited environments and doesn’t care for Johnny cards which look jaw-dropping or intriguing, but play terribly (even if they help you win – there is no less fun than facing a typical Johnny deck which happens to work), and who knows that stronger cards are in no way better designed cards, Wizards’ approach isn’t at all tailored to my liking.

Actually, all that hyperbole rather feels like an insult to my intelligence: I’m a player possessing deep insight in this game (so you can call me a Spike, if you insist). Because of that, I care for balanced environments which allow for games decided by skill, as well as for single cards allowing me to build my own environments boasting these features. Thus, I show little interest in overpowered cards, swingy cards, and cards encouraging non-interactive strategies. These types of cards, however, tend to make up the vast majority of previewed cards because they sell sets. Most players love cards which are so obviously powerful that even they immediately recognize this (not too easy a task nowaday), cards which are astonishing IF certain conditions are met (whose restricting effect they fail to grasp, or ignore because they play multi-player variants where they are easier met – see Rakdos, Lord of Riots), and explicit combo cards which allow them to win games by largely ignoring their opponents (unless those use these UNFAIR counterspells, of course). While these are previewed, I have to wait patiently for the cards which actually play well in balanced environments – typically commons and uncommons greeted by the majority of players with comments like “meh”, “crap” or “limited fodder”. So, Wizards’ spoiling approach doesn’t serve my needs at all, and I am glad if I can get a little jumpstart on the parts of a new set which I am interested in via an unofficial spoiling, so that I have a little more time to form an opinion on these cards (and sometimes – albeit rarely – one of the clowns haunting the rumor mill threads even makes an observation that wasn’t obvious to me at first glance). Therefore, I am really happy if someone spoils cards early – the more and the earlier, the better.

However, my first impression of Return to Ravnica is starkly negative. There is just so much in this set which I don’t like or outright hate: An exorbitant power difference between cards of different rarities. Few good creatures and little efficient removal at common. Overall high mana costs. Less manafixing than in the original Ravnica. A defender “tribal” theme, a milling theme. Hexproof. This “gate” theme once again making off-color lands desirable for some drafters. Populate and Overload, which are inherently swingy. Too much good artifact removal for way too few useful artifacts, but still maindeckable. Extra riders on already powerful, otherwise elegant cards (like on Hypersonic Dragon). Counterspells and land destruction for 5 mana. Cycles which really want to be used completely with unusable members. I also miss a new take on the Signets fixing the issue that they were too often used off-color (the Keyrunes, while nice designs, are completely different cards – three mana instead of two on a mana artifact is another order of magnitude). Overall, I am really disappointed. Edit: And just – officially – spoiled: another alternate win condition. Yikes.

But okay, that is just a first impression, and with my very first impression of a set I might still misjudge fundamental things (after studying the complete spoiler for a while, however, my predictions are usually right on track – check out older limited previews I wrote, if you doubt it!) So, maybe things will look differently to me in a few days. And you know what? Because practically the whole set was spoiled early, I now have a little more time to adjust my views. Yup, that’s a good thing!

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13 Comments on “I like spoilers, but maybe not this one”

  1. jashinc Says:

    I agree. Good removal being rare only leads to dominance of bombs (and to much more money needed to play competitively) and printing multicolored counterspells at five mana is a slap in the face of all control players. Instead they should have printed some good land destruction to fight these pesky Cavern of Souls…
    I’m disappointed of the “glorious” return to one of the best worlds we ever had!

  2. Yeah, I also find this set surprisingly boring. Most of the rares don’t interest me at all because they seem pretty stupid (the black Dragon who gives counters to everything) and/or not very creative (the “Can’t be countered cycle …). There are some sweet cards for Constructed, though.

    And holy crap this Limited format looks slooooooooow

    • jashinc Says:

      …unless you’re Rakdos…

    • No, I really don’t think it is very slow. Rakdos certainly sets the pace, and the other colors have the tools to compete. However, just BECAUSE it is not that slow you will be flooded with an overabundance of mediocre expensive spells, meaning that you will often find yourself a few cards short of a reasonably curving deck.

      Also, the available manafixing just doesn’t support the curves you could theoretically build, menaing that you will often be stuck with aggressive decks which tend to sputter in the early game because of color screw, or with clumsy decks able to reliably build their mana bases, but too slow to beat the aggressive decks if those do NOT stumble in their early turns.

  3. Simon Rau Says:

    I think its a good think to scale back on LD when they want people to build multicolored mana-bases.
    I also like the sloooow limited format, because otherwise people don’t finding their second colored mana in time are helpless. And with Rakdos and even Detain you still have good options to build a fast tempo deck.

    There are some common and uncommon removal spells though, most of them at conditional 3 mana or 6 mana hard removal.

    Overall the set looks decent to good for limited, but the overall impression is rather dull for me too. Don’t know why, maybe its the mechanics that look rather boring or maybe because most cool multicolored combinations on cards are already printed and the new versions often don’t WOW me that much.

    • Really slow environments (note that I don’t think this here qualifies) are never good, unless you like your games decided by single bombs, or you have an environment without bombs (not ever gonna happen again in offiical limited environments, because overpowered rares/mythics sell the sets, but it might be possible to build a reasonably playing slow cube).

      • jashinc Says:

        I just want to remind you that Rise of Eldrazi existed – which certainly qualifies as a slow environment.
        But I agree, although there a lot of fatties in RtR, neither the Aggro-Rakdos, the Tempo-Azorius nor the Swarm-Selesnya should have problems to punch through them…

        • Yes, but RoE limited WAS horrible. You were forced to go all-in on a narrow archetype before you had a chance to see if it was open, and even if it happened to be open, you could still just not get a deck because your key cards simply didn’t show up in boosters due to variance, Oh, and you DID lose to topdecked, unanaswerable bombs. A lot.

  4. This environment better be fast, or the Chronic Flooding / Psychic Spiral deck will be a terror…

    • jashinc Says:

      I wonder why the mill cards are in RtR and not in Gatecrash, where the Dimir lurk – is that a plot to make the milldeck a tier 1 archetype in Sinker-Gatecrash-RtR-Draft?

      • Well, blue mill cards seem to be in every single fucking set nowadays – it is Wizards’ clear goal to shift away Blue’s identity away from the counterspell color to the milling color. It hurts my brain that this is obviously what most players want… exit the most interactive cards in the game, enter a nearly completely non-interactive alternate win condition…

        That said, note that most of those mill cards can mill yourself, which is certainly relevant if you play BUG, and possibly with another guild mechanic from Gatecrash.

  5. I still maintain that Rise of the Eldrazi was actually a great Limited format, but I guess we’ll never agree on that one ;)

    But still, let me try: Have you actually drafted ROE? Because while it was indeed true that some drafts just went into full trainwreck mode without you doing anything wrong just because certain key cards didn’t show up, that didn’t happen that often and only with certain decks. Most good decks in that format had several key cards that were interchangeable with each other to a certain extent (RB Tokens, Grixis Control as examples).

    Plus: You had to know how to approach that format to get into that position in the first place! While some of your drafts could indeed go horribly wrong, you still had a substantial edge over people who were picking stuff like Lagac Lizard and Lone Missionary, just because they approached that format like any old curve-based Limited environment and didn’t realize that these cards were actually unplayable. Which means that in the long run, competent players (or simply players who put some work in) actually won MORE than in other formats. I get that Archetype-based drafting is not what you prefer – me neither, actually –, but that does not make it a bad Limited environment. For me and a lot of others, it was a nice change of pace. You really need to stop making generalizations where they simply don’t apply. (Plus, the decks you could draft in that format were so much fun.)

    Okay, now that I wrote way too much about a long-dead Limited format, let me quickly add this to RTR: Yeah, upon a longer-than-five-minutes-look at the spoiler, the format actually doesn’t look that slow. I just happened to notice all those gold cards and strange defensive creatures (Armory Guard, Voidwielder et al.).

    • Yes, I drafted ROE a few times, but not too often, because, you see, I hated it. I didn’t quit until I had figured out how to win, though – it’s just that I found I hated the way I won nearly as much as the way I had lost before…

      Maybe you were used to a different level of competition? The store in Berlin I used to visit for drafting was frequented by the best Berlin players, and it was not unusual to have over 50% drafters with pro tour experience at a table. Among the regulars (meaning those who were there nearly every time I visited) where Adrian Rosada, Torsten Severin and Robin Steinborn, as well as a little less known players like Dennis Bairs, Patrick Dierbach, Dion Sabel or Lukas Kostyra, all of which you would expect at the top tables of a PTQ. My opponents’ average rating in a typical draft was routinely well above 1800. In that environment, there was no exploiting of completely clueless players possible, and those few of that species who would hold one or two seats in a draft only served to make drafting even less predictable.

      Yes, the need to do archetype-based drafting makes for a bad limited environment, because it eliminates a key area of limited skill: The process of finding and molding your deck as you draft it. Drafting an archetypes only requires you to memorize your wish list and pick accordingly. (I see why people more comfortable with constructed prefer it, though: just as in that format, preparation becomes more important than improvisation.) Also, playing a strongly archetype-based deck tends to be much more on autopilot than other games in limited, since you have a narrow plan and need to stick to it. Oh, and since games tend to revolve around ever the same key cards, it is once again like constructed.

      All in all, this means that my destiny is largely out of my hands as soon as I commit to an archetype (which I need to do during my first few picks, often even with the very first one without the option to turn around). Even if that would increase my win percentage against a weak field, it would still not be FUN, bereaving me of the reasons I love to drafts in the first place.

      Let me put it that way: If a draft format happens to be popular with players who otherwise struggle to put up decent limited performances, just because it allows them to neglect those skills usually needed for limited and replace them with the constructed skill of bringing an already complete strategy to the tournament, it is a bad limited format.

      About those defensive creatures: I guess they are actually necessary to keep Rakdos aggro in check. Make no mistake: If your first play is a Keyrune, you might be dead before you get to make your second play…

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