Microhammer

A conversation the first night of our Orccon trip was what people would ban for V:TES.  A lot of folks have specific cards they really want out of the game.  I don’t.

I have a very long list of cards I want out of the game.  But, within that list, there are a lot of cards that are about equally undesirable to me.  The first thing I’d change about the game isn’t even card related, it’s a rules change – eliminating Scarce.

That night, I forgot a whole category of cards I’d like to see gone.  And, that’s the thing, for me, it’s more about categories than individual cards.  The reason why Eyes of Argus is bad for the game is not because of Eyes of Argus but because of the vast number of layerable intercept effects for Auspex.  If Enhanced Senses wasn’t legal, then, sure, have some other Auspex intercept variant.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first two categories I thought of were Imbued and promo cards.  I pretty much include 10th Anniversary cards in the promo category, including such reprints as Bowl of Convergence and, uh, Channel 10.  The only two 10th cards I’d miss at all would be Powerbase: Los Angeles and Rastacourere, and I don’t play either all that much.

Saturday’s tournaments reminded of the other obvious category – events.  Of Imbued and events, events are far more annoying.  The Unmasking is the primary offender, as the game was far better when you weren’t constantly getting blocked by allies.  Veil of Darkness, The Rising, The Slow Withering/Blood Weakens would be the next most in about that order, in my experience.  I’m sure some would be happy for Anthelios to go away, or whatever.

Sure, Ashur Tablets is incredibly bad design being nowhere near limited enough.  Govern, Conditioning, Aire, Foreshadowing are all too much bleed.  Parity Shift is both swingy and overly controllish.  First Tradition reduces interaction.  Out of turn acting ability is terrible and leads to awful decks like Reversal of Fortunes.  Voter Cap makes Presence too votesy.  No Secrets is a ridiculous lock card.  Sensory Dep is a ridiculous lock card.  Pentex is exceedingly antifun.  Et cetera.  Et cetera.  Et cetera.

But, there are just so many about equally offensive things that none of them really stand out to me.  To truly stand out to me, something would have to be more consistently played or just end people’s games in one shot.  The closest I can think of is The Unmasking, which doesn’t even show up all that often in my casual play as Imbued are rare and other ally decks are even rarer.

But, the beauty of no events is it takes that away.  The beauty of no promos is no more Gran Madre, Carlton, Bowl, Erciyes.

But, the problem with all of this beauty is that it doesn’t address the underlying issue with the game, which is that it has too many cards.  It’s not so much that abilities have bled from one discipline to another.  I don’t really care that Protean gets casual intercept.  It’s that there are so many cards that once were viable that just kind of don’t do much, anymore.  A long, long time ago, I thought of Necromancy as a stealth discipline, but Spectral Divination seems like so much filler these days, where it was a truly fascinating card back when stealth and intercept from the same card was odd and paying one blood for that didn’t seem all that bad.

Actually, that last paragraph is mostly a load of crap.  Bleed for six has always been around and constantly trumped playing other cards.  Tap and Cap has always been around.  Etc.  I got way off focus.

What is the worst thing about the game?

I don’t know.  I don’t like multiple master phase actions, never have.  I don’t like people doing a dozen different things before their minion phase – I brought up why in a previous year’s post.  I don’t like one thing from one game and something else from another game.

But, I lost every game I played over four tournaments and three casual games in one recent weekend and I still had fun and I didn’t find a problem with any particular table or deck.  Sure, I didn’t play against either Imbued deck.  But, I did get locked down twice in endgame situations because I didn’t play better to engineer not having to win those endgame match ups.

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4 Responses to Microhammer

  1. Brandon says:

    For all of the strong cards that saw play in LA, there was still a lot of variety. I could do with fewer star vampire block decks, but they have their weaknesses.

  2. Aaron C says:

    You’ve said it before, and you’ve skimmed over it here: the problem isn’t so much the bannable cards, the problem is the fact that so many cards are so suboptimal as to be unplayed or have been made unplayable by later cards. I personally like “tweaking”, but almost no one else does. It’s either ban or not ban.

    • iclee says:

      Errataing cards, which is what I’m taking to be your meaning with “tweaking”, has its own host of problems. Yes, sometimes, a simple errata restores designer intent or addresses something missed in playtesting or just makes for a better card.

      Some of the text migrations have done wonders for cards. Powerbase: Rome went from unplayable to underplayed. Anarch Revolt is still stupid to me, but it opened up a bunch of ideas that didn’t exist when it was just a “table tax”.

      The questions with changing cards include: Where do you start? Where do you stop? Are we weakening the cards people bitch about the most? That’s a common CCG management tactic. Pentex gets some change, and, um, something else gets some change.

      The thing about V:TES’s card pool is that it’s so large and the field of playable decks is so large that messing with a few things may not really change the game that much. Sure, weakening Deflection will impact the game … for the worse, but I contend that there aren’t individual cards that clearly are a source of major problems.

      Lilith’s Blessing was a card that rose to that level. There’s been tons of time to take people’s ideas and rework the card, but it hasn’t happened. Whether that’s due to not printing new cards or not doesn’t end up mattering. If LB isn’t going to be fixed, why fix anything else?

      There are costs to banning things. I don’t think one of those costs is less cards to play with. By that, I mean that only a percentage of the card pool is viable for competitive play for any given CCG and banning some minute fraction of the card pool at the top of the power curve or that is highly annoying will not have a meaningful effect on how many cards remain that are viable for competitive play – banning just changes which cards people play.

      Changing which cards people play is kind of a key things for CCGs. Most CCGs are dependent upon new sets to get people to change decks. An alternative to new sets with new cards is less cards. Magic’s structure provides dynamic play at the standard or block level as it’s constantly not only introducing new cards but also removing cards. Niche CCGs are typically loath to cycle cards out because of the whining from the playerbases about making significant portions of collections unplayable. Yet, what happens over time is just more and more mechanics bloat, rules bloat, and card pools that become stale because the best cards keep squeezing more and more of the not-best cards out of competitive play.

      Anyway, got off track. There’s some room for fixing particularly problematic cards. Pentex is just a really bad mechanic that, no, doesn’t need to be in the game. So, sure, allow the Pentexee to take the action to break out or whatever. But, with this game, at this point, I’m much more for decreasing the card pool by 10% or leaving it alone than turning a few knobs.

      • Aaron C says:

        Tweaking is not practical and is unpopular, so besides Villein, I do not see it happening in any substantive way. I get that. Banning is the most practical way to affect the game as a whole. When I say practical, I mean most efficiently done. A list of banned cards is easier to propagate than a list of cards with text changes. Banning cards at the higher end of the power/annoyance scale can do a lot to open up the playability of other cards or strategies. I certainly see the advantage of banning, I just prefer errata.
        MtG has dealt with its large card pool by creating limited formats. VTES’s large size lends itself to that, but the idea is not popular to long-time players and the “powers-that-be” are not propounding the idea. Personally I would be interested in seeing a “Sabbat crypt” only limited format and a Camarilla only format with a limited card pool aimed at new players, like a Jyhad-lite or something. Any limited format could easily ban your list of cheesy “promos” like Anthelios and the cheesy 10th Anniversary cards.
        (Oops, I’m digressing into speculative ideas long overdiscussed on the forums.)

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