Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Theros Mechanics

Wow is Theros weird.  Apparently the returning mechanic we've all be asking for is Scry?  Maybe it's Chroma, but that seems crazy.  I would have lost a lot of money betting that it was going to be levelling.

Anyway, first of all, let's take a look at rule 110.6:
110.6. A permanent's status is its physical state. There are four status categories, each of which has two possible values: tapped/untapped, flipped/unflipped, face up/face down, and phased in/phased out. Each permanent always has one of these values for each of these categories.
Okay, so phased in/phased out already sort of violates the "physical state" idea of a permanent's status, but I'm kind of wondering if monstrous/non-monstrous is being added to the list of statuses or not.  For those of you who don't know monstrous, it reads as follows:
Cost: Monstrosity N. (If this creature isn't monstrous, put N +1/+1 counters on it and it becomes monstrous)
Many creatures with monstrosity also have triggered abilities that trigger on becoming monstrous.  Impressive things like destroying three lands on each side of the board, permanently tapping down four creatures, or - on the flagship mythic - casting Forked Bolt.  The game needs to know whether a creature is monstrous or not, and it is not an ability of the card, so it sure looks like a status.  Unlike other statuses, however, there really is no physical state that corresponds with it.  Tapped and untapped are directions a card is facing, as are flipped and unflipped.  Face up and face down is a physical alignment of the card as well, and presumably you are doing something physical with cards that are phased out like setting them to the side.  Monstrous isn't like that.  You put +1/+1 counters on  but there are other ways to do that, even within this set, and there are also ways to remove those.  Anyway, I doubt it's easy to forget which creatures became monstrous, so I'm not that worried.

Heroic seems a little odd at first, then makes sense, then still seems odd.  Heroic creatures get some kind of bonus when you target them with a spell.  It's a neat implementation of the idea of being a hero because what it does is makes it more attractive to make the creature more than it is with the plentiful auras in the set.  Creatures with heroic aren't heroic but there is a reward for making them heroic.  On the other hand, there is also a reward for targettomg them with your own negative effects.  Like casting Pharika's Curse on your own heroic guy to make it bigger.  And sure, you could say heros face adversity too but facing adversity from your opponent doesn't help them.

Gods have the devotion mechanic, which is Chroma, but also generally have the is-an-enchantment mechanic, also with Bestow which allows a creature to be an aura for a while.  Bestow seems sweet on some cards and terribly expensive on others.  And the expensive ones are kind of sweet too but at that point your opponent can be activating monstrosity on their creatures so I don't know if bestowing is going to keep up.  The cheap bestows for your heroics seem a lot more interesting to me, although the resulting creature is usually pretty paltry.  I didn't see any Bestow that looked aggressively costed enough to get constructed play.

Given the massive mana costs on creatures Theros had better be pretty slow.  I haven't done a good analysis of it yet, but one thing I have done is what I will now dub the Ronson test.  Basically, if you play a red creature on your first, second and third turn using at best two commons and an uncommon, how far on the back foot can you put an opponent who doesn't have a play until turn four?  The answer in this set is not that far.  Starting on your fourth turn you can really get things going by playing a 4/2 that does four to their face or by putting a cantrip firebreating enchantment on your 1/2 double strike creature, but until then there isn't much that would let you develop a crippling board, and your opponent is pretty much always going to be able to make a comeback from such an aggressive start.

Well, I don't actually play these sets, I just watch them get played.  I also don't see a lot in the way of really wacky rares - those show up in base sets more often for some reason.  The online release won't be for a little while yet, so we'll just have to wait until then to see how it plays out.

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