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DeQuan Watson

    Many readers have gathered a lot of information about me through my writings.  For those of you that haven't though, this should tell you a little more. 

    I'm 25 years old and I own my own business. Well, more accurately I own a game store.  The Game Closet, my store, is one of the premiere places to play in the Texas.  I play Magic on a pretty regular basis.  I help people build decks and teach the game to people multiple times a week.  Owning a store is neat, because it gives me another perspective to write my articles from.  I can usually tell what the average player likes and can judge some of the tendencies of the average player a little better.  Of course, owning a store means I have knowledge of a lot of games and not just Magic.  I also find out my fair share of insider information on the industry.  But having other resources to pull from makes for more informative writings.

    However, I know a decent bit about pro level play as well.  I myself have
played on the Pro Tour.  I have multiple Top 8 finishes at Pro Tour Qualifiers.  I also have made Day Two at two Grand Prix tournaments.  I have also been invited to the Event horizons Invitational.  These are not stellar achievements, but high enough to let you know I have my head on straight when talking about the game. I also spend lots of time each week talking to, e-mailing, or chatting with top level players.  I get to see their perspective on a lot of things as well.  Between the two, I think I get a good sense of balance of the game.

    Most importantly, I still enjoy the game for the sake of the game itself.  I like the time, the competition, and the general interaction of players.  I plan to be playing it until it fades away...if it ever does.


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The Dragon's Den

Where to next?

Man, 2008 was an interesting year for Magic: The Gathering.

We got a restructured Pro Tour. 
We had another round of Hall of Fame inductees.  We had a new formatting for set releases hit us.  We even got Mythic rares. 

The only thing that happened though all of this that could potentially have a negative effect on the competitive community is that insane multi-color building that's happening lately.  There are a ton of four and five color decks on the tournament scene right now.  Unfortunately, I can't say I blame them.

I'll be fair here.  Yes, there are other decks that have only two colors and are doing well.  There are still decks like Black/White Token and Green/Red Warriors that can (and do) make an impact. 

But, there seem to be a much higher number of the 3-, 4-, and 5-color varieties of decks running around.  Players like having options.  Players like putting all of their favorite cards in a deck.  That's all fine and good, but right now, we are teetering on the edge of a potentially slippery slope.  It may seem harmless, but look at the bigger picture.

For starters, it has to be hard to playtest everything.  Part of balancing the cards, is knowing what type of decks they are likely to appear in.  And if nothing else, you can add more colored mana to balance it.  But even the 5-color decks are playing cards like Cryptic Command and that has THREE colored mana in the cost.

Just earlier today I was having a discussion over a similar topic with players in my store.  Imagine if two years ago someone told you that Wotc would make some cards that cost seven colored mana to cast.  It wouldn't just be colored.  The casting costs of these cards would be of three different colors as well.  And then add to the fact that players would play these cards in multiples of 3 and 4 in their decks.

I'm pretty sure, I'd tell this person that he was crazy.  But, with the cycle of ultimatums from Shards of Alara (namely Cruel Ultimatum and Violent Ultimatum) we have that.  This about how crazy this is.  Things are definitely out of control. 

I know that I personally have a Jund deck together that I'm playing Ultimatums and some of the
Big Dumb Dragon (Hellkite Overlord).  And guess what...Broodmate Dragons are in there as well.  That's a lot of high casting cost stuff of three different colors and the deck still functions smoothly.  If I'm in R&D, that has to be a slightly scary thought.  It has to be hard to balance a card knowing that casting cost and colored mana don't seem to matter anymore.  In this very same deck, I'm not even adjusting my mana when I make changes, because it doesn't matter much.  The decks are so powerful and fluid lately.

There also the issue of post creation play.  After the cards are made, do the 5-color decks choose to play certain new cards as well.  That creates a whole different set of R&D questions.  As fun as their job is, it's got to be tough.

Sure, things can be brought back to a balancing point.  The downside though is that we're going to head one of two ways (or both ways).  The first option is to punish players for playing so many colors or high casting cost cards in one deck.  The other option is to reward players for playing fewer colors. 

Sure, we can encourage people to play more basics.  I'm sure by now, many of you know that the Domain mechanic is being brought out again for Conflux (the next MTG set).  I don't think that's enough though.  Unless they make some ridiculously powered Domain cards, am I going to give up the raw power and versatility that these 5-color builds bring me?

We've seen things like this in the past, like Price of Progress.  I don't think we need anything that harsh though.  I'd be down with something that dealt one for each land instead of two though.  Even then, it could be a lot of damage at once.  But, here are some card ideas, that I've had in mind that could work:

Manamonger   2GG

Creatue - Lhurgoyf
When Manamonger comes into play, choose a player.
Manamonger gets +1/+1 for each color among cards in the chosen player's graveyard.

Something like this doesn't outright punish someone for playing a lot of colors, but at the same time, it can make their life difficult.  You usually are going to be paying 4 mana for a 4/5 creature, which is more than acceptable.  There's a chance though that he could be a 7/8 and that could be awesome.

And then there's something like this:

Fires of Greed       1RR
Whenever a player plays a spell with converted mana cost greater than 3, Fires of Greed deals three damage to that player.

This one could be too good.  At the same time though, it could hurt the caster.  But, you can build your deck around this card to stay under its restriction.

We could do some things that border on crazy even:

Power Degradation      1BB
Target player discards a card for each non-basic land he controls, up to three.

This is a strong discard spell.  It's not a random discard, so the player gets to choose what to drop.  It can really wreck havoc on some of these control decks though if it's timed well.  Against one or two color decks it definitely has potential to be less than exciting.  But, many times it's going to be stud-tastic.  I'd even be willing to add one mana to the cost to add more card of discard from the effect.

R&D could even get more specific and make cards reliant one basic mana in a more interesting way:

Golbin Macabre       BR
Creature - Goblin Zombie
If you control 3 or fewer non-basic lands, Goblin Macabre gets +1/+1 and Haste.

This works the situation from a different angle.  You are no longer punishing the current decks.  You are leading the way for new styles of deck building.  Players can start focusing on most streamlined decks and play fewer non-basic lands.  It rewards them for playing more basics while leaving the rest of the field as it is.

Standard right now is full of deck choices.  I don't think the current environment is bad.  I believe it's quite the opposite actually.  Everything is great.  I'm just afraid that if changes aren't made, we could head dark a very dark road.

The game has potential to become boring and un-fun to new/semi-competitive players.  If we continue to produce cards that power the 5-color decks, we are eventually going to have insanely powerful monstrosities trudging through the tournament scene.  I don't think any of us want that.  When that happens, players become discouraged.  Many quite playing competitively.  For some, the experience is so negative, they quit the game altogether.  I'd hate to see that happen when it could be avoided.

There are still upsides to having lots of colors crammed into one deck.  There's some interesting innovation going on.  Though, I don't think we are seeing the best possible builds of a lot of decks.  That's partlly because you can get away with sloppy deck building right now.  The cards are so strong and the manabases are so forgiving that it lends itself to this type of situation.  That's all good though.

We are seeing lots of neat ideas right now.  We're seeing a lot of things that make our ears perk up and get out minds thinking.  There's still a lot of creativity there.  R&D has done a great job in that regard.  Now, we are in a situation where we need to just keep the balance in line without drastically reducing the power level of cards.  That's a very fine line to walk.

For now, things seem fine.  I just wouldn't be surprised if we saw something similar to these cards make an appearance in the next couple of sets.

DeQuan Watson is a game store owner and tournament organizer from Waco, TX.  He's been a Pojo writer since 2001.  Feel free to chat about this article or whatever else at his store's website at



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