Thursday, July 23, 2015

Common Design: Why Commons Become Uncommons

I've spent quite a bit of time on my blog writing about the design of Commons, particularly in reference to the New World Order design philosophy and how it affects what we will see at Common in future sets. As is typical with the release of a new set, there is a certain subset of the Pauper community that laments these design constraints, since it typically means that few if any new cards will actually see play in Classic Pauper.

For Magic Origins, at least one player picked up on the fact that several former Commons (Knightly Valor, Sigiled Starfish, and Totem-Guide Hartebeest, among others) saw print as Uncommons in the set, and took this as further proof that New World Order is taking away all the complexity out of print at Common. In response to one such post, a player by the name of casual_melvin posted this response (which I have edited slightly just for clarity):

A) Cards often shift rarities from set to set, sometimes up sometimes down. Sometimes this reflects a change in how WotC handles rarity. More often it reflects the differing needs of the new set. Scion of the Wild was reprinted as a common in Modern Masters 2015 despite two previous printings at rare. This was acceptable because Modern Masters has less restriction on complexity than Standard legal sets.

B) Origins is a core set, and core sets have always had less complexity available than expansion sets. Shimmering Grotto was printed as a common in 2 expansion sets before being printed as an uncommon in M14. Then a functionally equivalent card, Unknown Shores, was printed at common in Theros.

C) Specifically, printing Sigiled Starfish at uncommon in Origins allows them to make a new common card of similar complexity. WotC gives itself a "complexity budget" for use on commons. A certain number of commons each set are allowed to do things that commons can't do too much without unbalancing limited. They use this budget to craft limited play around the set/block's themes so that always powerful things like removal and evasion aren't always taking center stage.

C2) Whether a card like Sigiled Starfish is printed at common or uncommon has less to do with the card itself than how it plays with the cards in the environment.  Apparently, while Origins does have scry, it is less of a focus than it was in Theros, so as a repeatable scry-er, Sigiled Starfish fits better at uncommon. 

As you're evaluating new sets, these are very great points to keep in mind. Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment