I Hate Permanents

I could have come up with a different title, but they’d all be pretentious.

I think I actually do generally disdain the concept of winning off of permanents in CCGs. What is a permanent? Any card that will continue to have a game effect while it remains in play and which will remain in play for a significant period of time unless removed by some other effect; exceptions in terms of what I’m complaining about could be made for cards that you need to have in play to play the game, such as land in Magic, foundation in Ultimate Combat!, minions in Vampire, etc. Let me muse over some CCGs.

Magic, The Gathering

Oddly, I disdain creatures because of how easily they are removed. However, close to my central complaint with Magic is that permanents have way too much game impact. I’d much rather get hit with a Fireball for 11 and three Lightning Bolts than be hit with the same 4/4 five times. While I can understand those players who consider such things as discard, land destruction, and counterspells being far greater problems, consider how much more annoying all of those are when they come from a permanent.

Magic has tons and tons of removal, especially for creatures, yet what’s typically frustrating for me in my games is single cards that I can’t get rid of. I especially hate equipment. Of course, I never really played tournament constructed where other problems with the game might be much greater. Still, as a sometime limited/casual player, I grew very tired of games coming down to single cards. … but, wait, I like single cards turning the tide – it’s dramatic. That’s the thing about permanents, they aren’t dramatic. I like having to guess at what I have to deal with, not see that the table says I lose. While the best decks for me to play might be things like Sligh, Red Deck Wins, Fires, and the like, when I think of Magic decks I want to be known for, it’s usually something along the lines of creatureless counterburn.

Ultimate Combat!

As much as I consider UC! the most balanced and fun CCG I’ve played, there are two types of permanents that I can see be concerned with. Power generating talismans can greatly throw out the balance of games and, in my modern thinking, are essential to every deck. While they won’t directly decide a game, a significant imbalance in how many players get out should be decisive. Then, there’s Favorite Technique. The beauty of UC! to someone like myself who hates losing to a single creature is that technique go away when they are used, except of course for one’s Favorite Technique(s). Well, there’s weapons, but weapons have the silly breakage rule and making them unbreakable involves building a very, very specific deck that I may have only seen once from an opponent. While I must admit I enjoy creating UC! prison-style decks which rely on Favorite Technique, it’s only because this sort of control deck is so rare. When I think about what it’s actually like to play against a deck that you can’t get through because three or four Favorite Technique including a Drunken are cycling through, I start thinking about what it’s like to play Magic.

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Cards in V:TES tend to have much weaker effects than cards in other CCGs. Even what I consider the best weapon in the game, .44 Magnum (Ivory Bow may be more annoying to play against, but it’s far less flexible), doesn’t bother me so much. Yet, I do find that permanents often irritate me. There aren’t many cards that by themselves are unfair or overly annoying. No Secrets From the Magaji comes to mind as one of a few that might qualify. It’s when a deck can assemble enough permanents in combination that you can’t do anything anymore that I just want games to time out. Imbued are the worst offenders in that Conviction are essentially permanents and Imbued decks don’t have much recourse for plays besides permanents.

The thing about decks that tool up is that any drama gets snuffed out of the game. If they succeed, then their plan for victory is to be unassailable, which is boring. If they fail, they often fail early, which wasn’t interesting either. Not that I advocate more or better removal, as I often find removal unfair. I don’t think much can be done since there are other problems in the game which are more important and counter issues with decks achieving unoustable positions.

Babylon 5

Not at first, but eventually the card ideas I pushed the most for were cards that gave temporary power and/or influence. When the game was young, there was drama from the cheese agenda even if everyone knew they existed. A Centauri or Narn player at 14 power might win that turn. Over time, a lot of drama was removed because sudden victory was either difficult or was incredibly annoying, e.g. Secret Strike a We Are Not Impressed conflict. While B5 had a general problem with predictability as all of the agenda were known to all of the experienced players and one could accurately determine whether a player could win this turn or not almost all of the time, besides avoiding further attempts to make it difficult to gain power off of agenda, I really badly wanted to see “bid for victory” cards.

I proposed a number of cards, mostly aftermaths, with varying requirements, that would give one turn changes to power (whether through influence or just power), to try to attack the predictability in the game. Now, you don’t want games to be so unpredictable that you never know whether someone can win in a turn or not as that makes good play impossible, but what was exciting in B5 and what’s exciting in all games is when everyone makes a bid for victory that has a limited window rather than someone just grinding out victory or everyone ganging up on the leader until so many resources are expended that the third or fourth leader can’t be stopped.

As another example, and one more relevant to my topic, of how my interests are reflected in deck design, my B5 decks tended to be very high in events, reflecting how I preferred cards from hand deciding things rather than cards in play.


3 Responses to I Hate Permanents

  1. Brandon says:

    I know what you need to play at the tournament, cel pre bruise bleed. The most permanent you need to go is *maybe* weighted walking stick, unless you go with Mercury’s Arrow + Target Vitals. Some auspex could be dashed in for some Quicken Sight. You know you want to!

  2. extrala says:

    I love permanents .. or to be more precise, I love to control permanents. ;)

  3. Bill Ricardi says:

    Is this why you love Tupdog so much? :)

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