Thursday, 21 November 2013

Oracle Review - Creature Types - Limited Edition

In addition to rewording card text, the Oracle is the official repository for creature types for the creatures of yore.  At some point Wizards had to make the difficulty decision of what to do with old, unsupported creature types.  First they decided every word was its own type, so they had to hyphenate old types like "Goblin King" into "Goblin-King."  But when they decided that creatures should generally have both a "race" type in addition to their "class" type, they had to address the issue that in older sets there were no "Humans" despite them being obviously full of humans.

Because of this, you can't use the creature type printed on the card from sets before Mirrodin.  That's a lot of Magic's history of creature types that was rewritten.  During this process some of it went well and some didn't go as well.  Today, let's look at the creature types from limited edition.

Artifact Creatures
Something I didn't mention above is that Mirrodin was also when they started putting creature types on artifact creatures.  All artifact creatures before then, with the exception of those that had special text on them giving them a type, were typeless.

Limited Edition had only four artifact creatures, plus an artifact that could turn into a creature.  Of these I thought the types were pretty obvious.  Obsianus Golem and Jade Statue are Golems, Living Wall is a Wall, Juggernaut is a Juggernaut.  These are straightforward, so I give them all two stars.

The only one that I don't like that much is Clockwork Beast.  While it makes sense that it got the creature type Beast, I feel like as a clockwork creature it need another creature type to distinguish it from flesh-and-blood beasts.  I would have made it a Beast Construct.  I think this oversight means only one star for the beast.

Adding Human
As noted above, there were no humans before Mirrodin, but a quick look at the art shows that a lot of things were human.  Generally, if something didn't specify what race it was, it was human.  So Royal Assassin went from an Assassin to a Human Assassin.  Other cards that got this same treatment were Samite Healer, Black Knight, White Knight and Prodigal Sorcerer.  This relatively simple change gets the two star treatment from me.

There were also cards that were made human and had other type changes as well.  Most of these I'll talk about in the next section about getting rid of unsupported types, but one I will talk about two here instead.  Ley Druid changed from being a Cleric to a Human Druid.  I don't have strong feelings about them doing this.  It is certainly easy to see why they did it.  The card says "Druid" and "Druid" is a supported creature type, so why not?  I don't note this to criticize or to praise it, just to observe that in the creature type remodelling, everything was up for grabs.  There was no effort to make only minimal changes or to preserve what was written on cards for the sake of maintaining their integrity.  If a new creature type made sense, that's the creature type you got.  Ley Druid, therefore, gets two stars like most of the new humans.

And then there is Veteran Bodyguard who was changed from a "Bodyguard" to a "Human."  That's all, he's just some guy, not any particular kind of guy.  You didn't get a knight, or a soldier, or a warrior to protect you.  Presumably you aren't even paying him since he isn't a mercenary.  Nope, he's just some guy.  He's just some one-star-rated-creature-type guy.

Sure, Why Not?
Ley Druid wasn't the only creature that got an unexpected new type for no apparent reason.  Personal Incarnation is now an "Avatar Incarnation," both maintaining its old type and getting a new one to match its name.  Nightmare is a Horse now in addition to being a Nightmare because, let's face it, it's a horse.  And Shanodin Dryad?  It was a "Nymph" rather than a Dryad originally.  Now it's a "Nymph Dryad."  I can't say I care for that - it seems like it should just be a plain old Dryad.  But I don't dislike it enough to rate it down.  Two stars for everyone with a new unwarranted type.

Inconsistencies
This is the part that really gets me.  There were a lot of creatures that used to just have a race that got a class as well, and a lot that didn't.  Dwarven Demolition Team is still just a Dwarf while Dwarven Warriors is a Dwarf Warrior.  Mons's Goblin Raiders are just Goblins while the Goblin Balloon Brigade is a Goblin Warrior.  The elves all got classes, though, the Llanowar Elves are druids and Elvish Archer is an archer.

Probably the weirdest of the bunch, though, are Wall of Bone - now a Skeleton Wall - and Wall of Brambles - now a Plant Wall.  Wall of Fire is not an Elemental Wall.  Giving some walls extra types and not others seems pretty ridiculous to me, especially when it comes to Wall of Wood which didn't join its thornier brother in becoming a plant.  I don't even really see how this could have happened - these cards must have been considered together.  For this rather egregious inconsistency, I'm forced to give all the walls no stars at all.  This is a situation that should be repaired.

Unsupported Types
Finally let's quickly go over all of those cards that had types no longer supported by the game.  Some of these were done quite well and others are duds.  Unlike above, I'm going to start from the bad and move ot the good.

I'm kind of disappointed that Roc of Kher Ridges lost the type "Roc" in favour of the type "Bird."  I get why this happened, but a Roc is a very iconic monster.  If Wolf is a type supported separately from Beast then I think we can have a special place in the world for Rocs.  Similarly, I would have held onto "Enchantress" for Verduran Enchantress.  I probably would have also made her an elf instead of a human.  Barring that, it seems like she should be a Wizard since she's all about casting enchantments.  I think "Human Druid" is a real miss here.

And Pirate Ship just feels totally wrong.  I get that they want to talk about the pirates and not the boat, but making it a human?  Wouldn't a crew of pirates be a place where miscreants of various races could all get together?  Would they turn away an orc who wants to sail the seas with them?  Ship, Roc and Enchantress all get one star from me, though I will admit that the roc suffers mostly from my personal bias.

On the more mediocre front, Gaea's Liege is an Avatar, Savannah Lions are a Cat, and Force of Nature is an Elemental.  War Mammoth is an Elephant, Goblin King is a Goblin, Keldon Warlord is a Human Barbarian, Northern Paladin is a Human Knight, and Benalish Hero is a Human Soldier.  Lord of Atlantis is a Merfolk, Clone and Vesuvan Doppelganger are both Shapeshifters, Nether Shadow and Will-o'-the-Wisp are both Spirits, and Scavenging Ghoul and Zombie Master are both Zombies.  This is all sensible, two-star stuff.

I have very mixed feelings about Phantom Monster and Phantasmal Forces becoming Illusions.  On on hand, this is the right place for them to be.  On the other hand, it is a shame.that the Phantasm type is not supported.  The three-star solution to this would be to make all Illusions into Phantasms instead of the other way around, but the way they've done it still merits two.

Creature type changes are not the stuff of wonder and it so it is no wonder that I've used almost entirely one and two star ratings.  There was one creature type, however, that really stood out.  Fungusaur was a Fungusaur, but they weren't going to support the creature type Fungusaur going forward.  So what is a fungusaur?  It's a Fungus Lizard, obviously.  What else could it be?  Fungusaur, your new creature type gets...


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