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Headscratchers: Magic: The Gathering

  • Guardian Zendikon. It's a wall! All the other Zendikons actually turn into creatures and start chasing you. It just flips up and... sits there.
    • Quoth the card's description: "Enchanted land is a 2/6 white Wall creature with defender". Yes, it is a Wall, what's the matter?
    • The fact that it's a wall is the problem. Heck, Wall creatures in general Headscratchers. I just don't think it fits well with the flavour of worldwake. Walls have no will of their own, or locomotion, for that matter.
      • A very pacifist Mighty Glacier, maybe? What if it's unmoving by its own will?
    • We don't know it just sits there. After all, it has a power of 2. You could imagine the land erupting under the attackers' feet, battering them and driving them back. That huge disk could grind slowly forward, or shift to continually block the attacker's path.
      • IIRC, Mark Rosewater (The Head Designer) at one point discussed this, and the reason they introduced "Defender" instead of just walls back in Kamigawa was because of this issue. There have been numerous attempts to justify it, and I think the one above is pretty good. Still, if nothing else you can write it off as Gameplay and Story Segregation.
  • Okay, this has been really bugging me, and I think this is the best place to ask. Lotus Petal is listed as a Game Breaker. Now, I only played Magic for about a week before I quit, but I do have a couple years of TCG experience under my belt and I have to ask, how is trading 1 card for 1 colored mana a Game Breaker? Even if you have surplus cards, surely one mana isn't decisive, right? What am I missing? I'm sorry, but to me, this card being competitive, much less overpowered, is inconceivable!
    • Lotus Petal is broken for a number of reasons:
      • Speed: the one-land-per-turn rule is inviolate, unless you're willing to go into green, often considered the weakest color in eternal formats. The ability to get one extra mana on turn one (possibly more, if you run/draw multiple Lotus Petals) allows people to do broken things, especially in broken formats like Vintage and Legacy.
      • It's an artifact: this may not seem like much, but being an artifact that produces mana of any color means it can be run in any deck with no drawbacks. Unlike the "fixed" moxen (Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox, Mox Opal) you don't need to jump through card-disadvantaging hoops to get your fast mana, and unlike most ritual spells (Dark Ritual being the gold standard, with cards like Rite of Flame and Seething Song in tier two), it doesn't lock you into a color. It also means it can be recurred easily with things like Yawgmoth's Will.
      • It's a spell: Again, this doesn't look like much, but when you consider how many eternal formats are dominated by bah-roken Storm mechanic, being able to build storm count for free is a big deal. It also means you can rip an entire playset of them with Ad Nauseum and suffer no drawbacks for doing so.
    • Short version: one extra mana, once, isn't necessarily broken. Elvish Spirit Guide and Simian Spirit Guide do the exact same thing. However, Lotus Petal is the perfect storm: a free artifact spell that gives you mana of any color without additional card disadvantage and can be recurred with ease. It's not broken by itself, but it enables so many broken things.
      • Low-Grade example, albeit a God hand. Turn 1, Swamp, Black Lotus, Dark Ritual, a Pair of Hypnotic Specters. Good luck dealing with a pair of 2/2s that are keeping you free of having to worry about cards in your hand.
  • How do Incite work?
    • Err... Well, it's an Instant, so you play it at any time. Target creature Turns Red, literally and figuratively: it becomes a red permanent until end of turn and attacks if able. (There are no stated penalties if it can't.) What's your question?—or are you just trying to be memetic?
      • Well How Would you use it? It See to be useless on a Mono Red Pack.
      • like most of the red cards that cause a creature to attack, it's not really meant for a monocolored red deck. it can, however, be used against a "utility creature" to help you get it out of the way by blocking with a larger creature, or you could use it with something like Celestial Purge to make a two-part creature removal. also, you could use it when all of your opponents' creatures are protected from your (nonred) creatures to get around those protections. Overall, it's an unorthodox spell for unorthodox thinkers.
      • And? It's a red core set-only common for 1 CMC that doesn't deal direct damage. Readers on Wizards' own site give it 1.5 stars out of 5. Not all cards are intended to be good. That being said, it does have some (limited) use. If you're not playing mono-red but have, for whatever reason, a card that makes red creatures better, it can make a non-red creature good. Alternatively, if someone is trying to use a color hoser on a non-red creature you have, you can save it. If you don't want to attack because your opponent's defenses are a little too strong and he's not going to attack this turn, you can make him sacrifice a creature you want to kill (or even just tap a creature you don't want him to be able to use as a blocker). Any other uses people want to come up with?
      • Forcing a creature to attack is actually a really powerful effect. Not all creatures were intended to be offensive, and if you can force an opponent's (weak, expensive, otherwise untouchable) "utility creature" to attack, you can block and kill it at your leisure.
      • Also: Bypassing "Protection from (anything but red)" comes to mind. Granted, it's pretty situational, but it's better than nothing.
      • It limited filler. Force utility weenies to attack, pop Ice Cages and any of Blue's grossly undercosted Illusions that say "when _ becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice/destroy it" or hell, even combo with Celestial Purge.
      • Original answerer here: you're assuming it's meant to be played on your own creatures. Have you never encountered a situation where your opponent was saving an important creature that you really, really wanted dead? In this spell you have a solution to that problem. And I'm also with one of the other responders that, while it's not necessarily useful, it's flavorful, and part of the goal of the Core Sets is to communicate how the colors work. Whether or not Wizards should be wasting an entire card on that is something you should decide for yourself. I mean, they wasted an entire card on Lion's Eye Diamond.
      • But Lion's Eye Diamond is really really good: it becomes a Black Lotus when either Yawgmoth's Will (you can go infinite!) or Time Spiral are on the stack.note 
    • Badly. BOOM!
    • Step 1: Incite something very useful but non-red in an enemy's partially red deck. Step 2: Wash Out Red (or similar effect). Step 3: Laugh.
  • The entire Dimir guild. Seriously, how could it remain a secret for such a long time? And how exactly do they find new members?
    • They cover their tracks amazingly well—they can wipe people's memories, for example, and they have secret ways of disposing of "evidence" (as seen in the Ravnica: City of Guilds novel). It helps that most of the populace thinks they're a myth, so they can easily dismiss any stories as lies or legends. As for finding new members, it's probably like the way Szadek recruits Savra in the book—approaching them individually and seducing them with promises of power or whatever.
  • Okay, so in Future Sight there's a Myr that looks like a Phyrexian, and a Garrison that's made out of Darksteel, So how come they didn't appear at all in the Scars of Mirrodin block?
    • For your first question, see Mark Rosewater's article on the subject here. As for Darksteel Garrison, it probably didn't make it because it's, frankly, a lame mechanic, and probably unprintable because of the complexity it creates.
      • Wait, Equip for lands is too complex?
      • Ghost Warden, for example, was cut from the core set for complexity reasons. It doesn't look like much, but that simple ability can create very complex board states and make attacking and blocking difficult. Darksteel Garrison takes that same ability and puts it on a permanent that players are trained to ignore in normal gameplay. Now take that fairly basic level of complexity and multiply it by ten, because there would be no point in reprinting the mechanic if it only got one card. All of a sudden we have a whole set full of weird repeated abilities on lands that muck up the board state. Notice how even though Zendikar had a bunch of nonbasic lands, most of them just had comes-into-play abilities, and after that they were normal mana sources that you didn't have to care about.

        It's an issue that was brought up a lot in the Great Designer Search 2.

        Of course, fortifications could have abilities like "Fortified land has 'T: Add 2 to your mana pool'" or whatever, but lands are destroyed so infrequently that the difference between a fortification and an aura would hardly ever come up, so it doesn't even open up any interesting design space (at least not that I can see). It's just not worth the baggage either way.
    • Considering the Scars of Mirrodin block ended with the return of the biggest bad in the Magic multiverse (except perhaps Nicol Bolas) it highly likely we will retun to it eventually. Those 2 cards not being included could just be Wizards subtly pointing to another return.
  • Why is Lord Konda white? He selfishly dragged mortals into a bloody war with the spirits to avoid his own death, isn't that much more of a black thing to do?
    • It wasn't just for himself—he also wanted his empire to have a powerful ruler so that it could stay strong as a society. He thought it would benefit the greater good. He was always strongly aligned with Lawful. Also, he was batshit insane, so dragging the world into the Kami War was probably not a rational decision.
    • White ≠ incapable of selfish acts, just that it doesn't consciously realise that such acts are evil. Look at Kataki, also from Kamigawa (read his vignette in the official site); he too is White, but so utterly insane that he considers miniscule actions to be an afront to his moral code. Similarly, Black characters can be quite helpful, although they would rather have any of their actions benefitting them in some way or another.
    • Short version: Light Is Not Good. Black does not hold a monopoly on selfish actions.
  • Just what is the point of infect? Mark Rosewater claims, quite accurately, that the biggest problem with poison is that it essentially acts as a secondary life total. So why did he believe that the best way to execute poison is by making the main way of dealing it the exact same as the main way of dealing damage?
    Mark Rosewater: Poison, though, functions a lot like life loss. You have a number that changes as your opponent attacks you. When that number reaches a particular spot, you lose. Sure, life counts down and poison counts up, but their feel is pretty similar.
    • Because, IIRC, you can't recover poison counters. Healing cards are common, but poison healing cards are not(again, as far as I know)
      • Not only is that a really superficial difference, but if you're not playing a significant amount of life gain (and, let's face it, not a whole lot of people do), it doesn't make a difference at all. And even so, it still doesn't address the problem addressed in the Rosewater quote above - whether poison or life, you're still doing the exact same thing.
    • Because Infect means you're exclusively wearing away at that, while the old Poison stuff did both... And usually killed the life total first. Why on creatures? Presumably because it being delivered by creatures allows for you to actually do it while establishhing board presence, which is what basically limits milling to rogue decks in most environments rather than making it a major part of most of them... As for the mechanical similarity between winning by hitting a target number (which would exist if it were on spells or creatures, frankly)? Not being delivered by creatures wouldn't change that. Poison is effected by things that effect generic counters provided it doesn't limit it to a permanent (...That basically means 'proliferate,' doesn't it?), Life can be regained, milling accelerates a constantly ticking clock somewhere between 'slightly' and 'a lot'. That, at the moment, seems to be the main difference between the three targets. Oh, and the opponant can, to a certain extent, choose how high or low the target number is for milling.
      • That still doesn't fix the problem that it's essentially the exact same action - attacking with creatures in order to hit a target number. And I know that moving it from creatures to non-creatures wouldn't change anything, but that doesn't mean the current execution is any better. It just feels really awkward that Ma Ro (and other members of R&D) identify the biggest problem with poison, and then their "solution" not only doesn't solve that problem, but exacerbates it to the point where the two are essentially exactly the same thing. Yes, there's proliferate and "poisoned", but both of those would have been fine options regardless of the execution of poison. And those are both very much secondary to infect being the number one main method of poison (what with infect having over three times as many as the other two combined).
      • However it still is different from your life, and as such, it forces you to make between two tough decisions. Either make a permanent mark on a creature you control, or take damage that you cannot recover in standard, and can run ONE card that can deal with it in legacy (Leeches.) In the end, yes it's the same as life, however, it differs in it's permanence, and that makes one's thought processes regarding how you deal with combat significantly different.
      • I think the problem Maro had with poison is that the old poison cards added 1 poison counter at a time, meaning that unless you were attacking with a 1/1 poison user you will generally kill someone before the poison matters, the infect mechanic means that you can add multiple poison counters at once instead of one at a time.
      • There is a creature, Marsh Viper from The Dark (the original set with poison counters) that inflicts multiple poison counters. And the proliferate mechanic by itself separates poison from damage pretty well (it only takes one poison counter inflicted to lose if enough proliferate is flying around).
      • Infect is a flavor thing mostly, it represents the Phyrexian Corruption. When a creature gains a -1/-1 counter from it, they are becoming Phyrexian, from a story stand point a player gaining the ccounters is dying to the corruption. While it works like a secondary life total it is purely flavour. The corruption is everything Phyrexia.
    • There's one thing you're forgetting. Infect isn't just "Poison: The Remake". It's a poison that also affects creatures.
    • The problem is, Infect only differs from life total in two ways: it's permanent player damage, and it's a lower total to achieve than 20 life. The execution of Infect is far from perfect; perhaps the best part of the mechanic is the Wither-type ability to permanently shrink creatures. Otherwise, Infect gives creatures a 2x bonus to combat damage against players, in cases where the creatures are barely (if at all) over-costed to compensate for the ability. So what is the point? Flavor, apparently. Magic doesn't really need another win condition.
      • "Another"? Infect didn't add a win condition. "Ten poison counters mean you lose" has been a rule since poison was introduced.
      • And on top of that, Wizards has yet to print a creature with 20 power that can easily be tutored, has Trample, is indestructible, and doesn't go away even if it does hit the graveyard. Even a measly Deadly Recluse can stop Emrakul. Yet we have Blightsteel Colossus.
  • What exactly is "The Great Work"? I know it has something to do with Phyrexia, but I don't know what it is.
    • Phyrexia IS "The Great Work". In the context of the Scars of Mirrodin block, it refers to the transformation of Mirrodin into New Phyrexia, but it also refers to the spread of Phyrexian corruption in general.
      • More to the point, the "Great Work" is bringing the world/multiverse to Physrexian corruption and influence. Esentially, Manifest Destiny on the grandest scale possible. With a dash of zombie apocalypse and body horror.
  • While the quality of the content is debatable, the cover art of the tie-in novels is usually quite good. However, some of them are downright baffling:
    • The cover of Hazezon depicts the characters very accurately, but the scenes depicted donít bear any resemblance to what happens in the book.
    • Why does Championís Trial have a picture of Ramses Overdark on the cover? Overdark had already been depicted on the cover of Assassinís Blade, which is appropriate as he is the eponymous assassin. So shouldnít CT have Tetsuo Umezawa on the cover? Itís a real missed opportunity Ė Tetsuoís card art isnít very good and this could have allowed a better artist to reinterpret the picture.
    • The Darksteel Eye and The Fifth Dawn have card art of random creatures on the cover. Given that they use card art, couldnít they have had pictures of Slobad, Memnarch or Raksha on them?
    • Why does the anthology The Monsters of Magic have the Sliver Queen, hypnotic specter, masticore and a two-headed dragon on the cover if none of those monsters are featured in the book?

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