Monday, July 24, 2006

Coldsnap (or: theory of a baoman)

I’m at work now, so I’m switching between working on my game and writing a bit about ColdSnap. I hope people are playing my game…

Anyway, on Friday, when Jason, Alan, and Duy came back from Waterloo, and I came back from work, we had the Coldsnap draft. Unfortunately, Ricky was busy eating Squash Spaghetti, so he couldn’t make it. Wish he could’ve though, then maybe we could’ve seen more cards. Maybe.

As the first draft of a new set, we had a 4-booster draft, instead of a usual 3-booster draft, to see more of the set. So it was myself, Duy, Alan, Jason, and Vinh. We started drafting around 6:30, finished rather early, and then had enough time for a few games.

Coldsnap is an interesting set, to say the least. First thing to note is that we had a bad set of boosters; 20 boosters means we should see 20 different rares, but instead we only saw about 14… lemme think – 2 depths, 2 gorgers, 2 hibers, 2 vexes, and 3 owls means 6 duplicates.

The expansion symbol sucks. Well, the main gripe I have is that it’s hard to tell between rares and uncommons, and the common symbol doesn’t look very good. It’s a pair of icicles, but instead of black for common, silver for uncommon and gold for rare… well, it’s still gold for rare, but it’s a very unshiny gold. It’s white for common, and a dark colour for the uncommon. It’s a pain. I much prefer the symbols in CBS9RGD. Who wants a CBS9RGDO (O means coldsnap) draft? :P

So Wizards say this is a lost design file from the ice age block – the other guys don’t know about that, but I think it’s actually feasibly true – I think it is a lost design file. It was nice to see some familiar names pop up, references to Tevash Szat and Tresserhorn and Marit Lage.

Anyway, I saw four primary trends in the set. The first, obviously, is snow. Snow is no longer a big drawback, actually, it’s quite good for most cards. Snow is now a… subtype? So you can have basic lands, or basic snow lands, and you can have creatures, and snow creatures. There’s a thing called Snow mana, which is just mana made by a snow permanent. So if you have a snow mountain, you can make red mana that’s also snow mana. If you have an elf that’s a “snow creature – elf”, and it taps for mana – it produces snow mana.

So, there are things that depend on how many snow permanents you have, and things with activated abilities that can only be paid using snow. Also, things like snow-covered mountains have to be drafted, you can’t just take them from outside the game and substitute them in for regular mountains. So, almost every pack would have a basic snow land, like 9th edition but better – and there are some other uncommon snow lands, and those are alright.

Most of the cards in the set are single coloured, some with multicoloured abilities, and some multicoloured cards – however, mana fixing… sucks in this set. Some of us were playing 3 colours and it was pretty hard. But I digress, for now. That said, this set, like the Kamigawa set, might not work as well when you play with other sets, and instead works much better by itself.

Another semi-trend I saw in this set was the number of 7-to-cast creatures. There weren’t thaaat many, but it seems like there were more than usual. It’s like Wizard was experimenting with this set, seeing how 7-to-casts affect the game, and how big they should be for 7-to-cast. Some of the 7-to-cast things suck, some are okay, some are… well, most of them aren’t that good for 7. So, maybe Wizards now learns that 7-to-casts must be pretty awesome to be played.

Anyways, on to the last two significant trends in this set. The first is the emphasis to play multiples of the same card.

First, there are cards like “instant – deal 1+X damage to target creature or player, where X is the number of cards with the same name as this card, in all graveyards.” So the spell is much enhanced.

Secondly, there are Duy’s Krovikan Mists and Vinh’s Aurochs. Duy’s mists are creature – Illusions, and they get stronger the more Illusions you have. It’s not unheard of in previous sets, but here I’m using it as an example to draft a lot of Krovikan Mists. Similarly, Vinh’s bigger Aurochs have “when you play this, search your library for an auroch and put it in your hand” and “whenever this attacks, it gets +1/+0 for each other auroch attacking”. So, you can see why you’d want a lot of aurochs in the deck.

Thirdly, there’s the new mechanic: Ripple. So there’s Surging Flames – 1R, Deal 2 damage to target creature or player, Ripple 4 (when you play this spell, you may reveal the top 4 cards of your library, and play any spells with the same name as this card without paying their mana cost. Put the rest of the cards at the bottom of your library in any order).

So if you play a surging flames, you can look at the top 4, and hope you get another surging flames. Additionally, if when you ripple you get another Surging Flames, you can choose to also Ripple that card. So you can look at the top 4, then if you succeed, you can look at the next 4, and so on. So, it’s a chain ripple. So, if you have 15 of them in your 40-card deck, a turn 2 kill is quite possible :P

Chain Ripple.

Cripple.

(indeed)

And, fourthly, but not quite, there’s another cycle of cards that rewards you for having a lot of cards of the same colour in your hand, that deals with revealing X red cards from your hand, and then stuff happens.

In a 4-pack draft, it’s not too bad – you can pick up 3-6 of a certain card and use them all in the deck. I can imagine in constructed these cards are much worse, having only 4 of the card in a bigger deck. In a 3-pack or 2-pack draft, you probably only get 1-2 of these cards, and in a 6-pack draft, it can just get ridiculous.

Lastly, there’s one more trend. It seems Wizard chose this to be an experimental set, and it’s too bad that it was lost. Experimental set means results, so they could’ve implemented more of these cards in future (current) sets, at least the ones which worked out well.

This last trend, which is fun in limited, is really strong, undercosted creatures, with drawbacks.

(Treachery?)

What’s a major drawback from Ice Age? That’s right. The ever so famous – Cumulative Upkeep.

So there are slightly undercosted creatures, like 6 to cast 6/6 trample with cumulative upkeep W or G and 5 cast 5/6 (also, instead of being rare, they are uncommon and common), and there are massively undercosted creatures, like the uncommon 2 to cast 5/5 trample and the rare 3 to cast 4/4 flying or 3 to cast 8/8, with upkeeps other than mana costs.

It’s interesting – upkeeps other than mana costs.

So, those are the major trends. I didn’t talk about all the mechanics, like Recover, or creatures that get stronger with age counters, or creatures that, when they die, do something based on the number of age counters on them…

So, of course there are reasons to draft coldsnap again. We can try new strategies, with different people (like David or Ricky), more packs, less packs – and we still need to see the other uncommons and rares. We can try mixing different sets, like we always do. Lately, I think the RR9, GG9, and DD9 type of drafts are popular, so maybe we can have a D&DO draft or something. Although, for now, we still want to see a majority of coldsnap cards.

Next draft? I propose 3-4 packs of coldsnap, plus one more. Maybe a choice in RGD9, or something. If I’m in green, I need more mana fixing.

I hope we don’t open another owl. Or depths. And I hope my first rare isn’t green, black, or red :P

12 Comments:

Anonymous Silph said...

darn! I thought you were going to not post about the mechanics [all of which I already knew], but about the game! oh well.

btw, it wasn't REALLY a lost file :-) As Mark Rosewater explained, ion the 80s, it was a trend to find "lost" files for episodes of TV shows. Coldsnap was just along these lines.

Did Coldsnap have a different "feel" than other sets? In the sense that the Ravnica block definitely had a certain "feel"... and it's that block that I associate drafting with (b/c we drafted so much of it! :-) )

8:23 PM  
Anonymous silph said...

(and since when did you bcome baomAn?)

8:23 PM  
Blogger Bao said...

baomon and baoman are interchangeable. actually, nobody really says baomon in real life - they say bao or baoman.

Coldsnap... definitely had a different feel. It somehow... felt a bit disjointed. Even with the snow and the idea to play multiple cards, it felt like there wasn't much synergy between cards. If a card was special, it would be special on its own. Sure, there are some combos you can probably find, but... yeah, it felt disjointed.

So we'd like to do more drafts, but not thaaat many more, unless we find more likable stuff in it, or if it becomes interesting in cross-block drafts.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous silph said...

I'd be impressed with any block that felt more cohesive [or whatever the opposite of disjointed is] than the Ravnica block. I mean, each gold card was instantly built upon an already established philosophy (ie the one of its guild). I thought that was *absoultely brilliant*. By far, Ravnica block -- even though it's gotten a little old (b/c of overdrafting :-) ) -- was the most astounding acheievement I've ever seen in Magic.


And yeah... heh, my Slowtrip set will probably feel disjointed in a similar way, too :-P I'm not even sure if it's going to *work* or not!

5:03 AM  
Blogger Theomnifish said...

I look forward to seeing how Slowtrip turns out, David. Your preview card made it look like games involving Slowtrip draft decks would be really really long...

And me, Jason, and Duy are going to be drafting Coldsnap again this Thursday, with some of our old friends from electrical engineering. It's only a 3-pack draft this time, and some of these guys are more into tournaments and serious Magic than we are, so it might be harder for me to get 11 snow lands and 3 Skreds this time. :P

btw, I concurr the Ravnica block is the most awesome thing that's ever happened to Magic to date.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous silph said...

Aiya, Slowtrip might be a big flop :-) just because I might be underestimating how important it is to have plenty of creatures in a draft set ;-) We'll just have to see!

-- Silph

3:21 AM  
Blogger Bao said...

I dunno, I guess it all goes back to "balance". I tried to address balance in my preview articles, but basically if both opponents have the same thing, is it balanced? So in your set, if both people had 4 creatures instead of 14 creatures in their deck, would it be balanced?

If it's considered balance, the set shouldn't be a flop. Instead, it will just be a different game.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Duy said...

I don't think such balance necessarily works... I'd hate to play a Super Sudden Death game of Magic, for example; if everyone can get access to some ridiculously powerful cards, and it's a matter of drawing them first, you could say that's balanced, but it probably won't be fun... Will a slowed down game of Magic be more interesting? We'll have to see......

And then if the set's so different from others, then you'd have to play within that set only.... you couldn't try to play Slowtrip decks against any real decks or even decks made from our other sets like Super Lightning Blade or Combo Breaker...

... Well, we never did play SLB decks again regardless, but anyway... =P

12:56 AM  
Anonymous silph said...

heh, except that one time in a group game where I decided to collect some reject red cards [do you remember? and it had that red enchant creature that kept on changing what it enchants?]. It kind of worked well, that!

and as for what Bao says about Balance, the trouble is that even if everyone has the same resources to begin with, some people might have more foresight to draft the creatures; so even if there's an average of four creatures per player, one player might have fourteen, and the rest only one or two... .
-- Silph

2:35 AM  
Blogger Bao said...

Well, this "foresight" basically is just experience from drafting. All of us have drafted before, with a lot of ravnica/guildp/diss, and even though each block is different, drafting strategies only change slightly. You almost always take removal first, or a rare or uncommon creature, and etc etc...

I'm assuming we're drafting ALL slowtrip cards in the first draft, so after the first few boosters we'll get the hang on how to draft this guy.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous silph said...

===
I'm assuming we're drafting ALL slowtrip cards in the first draft
===

*laughs*
Yes.

My god. "Wandering Ones" would so nearly pwn in this set! (well, which is perhaps why what essentially is "Wandering Ones" for green is rare... and being rare, thus is super-powerful!

===
Teddy Bears G
Creature -- Bears 1/1
Protection from Mages and Lexicons
===

That's another first-pick, btw!)

5:37 AM  
Blogger Bao said...

1 to cast 1/1? That CAN attack? I'm so taking that!

10:40 AM  

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