Magic, Vs Style

A while ago, Casey introduced me to the card game Vs System. It had a neat resource system where you could play any card as a resource of the same type. In Magic terms, you could play a black card as a Swamp, a green card as a Forest, etc.

What’s that you say? “What a brilliant idea!?” I agree! I’ve been thinking about how exactly such a system would work in the Magic universe.

It turns out that Wizards has already toyed with this idea, via their Magic Online Vanguard series of avatars. The Dakkon Blackblade avatar reads:

You may play any colored card from your hand as a copy of a basic land card chosen at random that can produce mana of one of the card’s colors.

Since I’m considering playing not online, but in meat space, where it can be a pain to make random decisions and keep track of them, I’d probably just make that:

You may play any single-colored card from your hand as a copy of a basic land card that can produce mana of the card’s color. You may play any non-land colorless or multi-colored card as a land that can produce one colorless mana.

Here’s how I think this plays out, after having played it this way a couple times:

  1. No mana flood or screw ever — you can’t have too little or too much mana, though you can definitely still get yourself in the position where you don’t have the right colors. Sort of. If you put in too many gold or colorless cards, then you can run into problems. So just be careful about providing enough solid color cards. If you were to use Dakkon’s rules (pick a random color), this point is relieved somewhat.
  2. The mana curve shifts right. Expensive cards are much more playable (you can guarantee playing it by just waiting X turns).
    Thus, bombs are more omni-present. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing (might make the game more interesting as a whole). People should just pack more insta-removal and Naturalizes. Plus, each player should have bombs, and neither player should be
    stuck at 2 mana. More grand clashes.
  3. Choosing which card to use as land and which to play was excruciating sometimes. Every hand was like a little puzzle. “If I spend this for mana, I can play these four other cards, but if I wait, I can do this and this on turn 5.” etc. This will get worse as the quality of decks goes up. It sucks to have to use an Oblivion Ring as a Plains. You have to really plan for the future. Lots of opportunity to mess up. I several times cursed using a certain card as land later in the game.
  4. Mana ramping is still good (playing cards like Druids that give you more mana faster). Mana smoothing becomes worse, but not useless, because it lets you play both your good black cards in your hand, rather than tossing one to play the other.
  5. Splashing colors is far less dangerous. Though you still need to draw at least two cards of the appropriate color to play any of them. So you have to be smart about your splashing. But that one red card in your hand that normally is useless just become a land.
  6. Color hosers and various sideboard cards will be maindecked. Situational cards of all stripes become playable. In fact, although I know this is a completely irrational response, I was often relieved to see a useless card in my hand, because it meant an easy choice for what to play as land.
  7. I don’t think the game necessarily slows down. I just think it makes all phases of the game important. You can still have a deck that rushes early before its opponent gets all the bombs he stuffed his deck with. Getting in that 10 points of damage before the end-game is still huge. But it does make it harder to maintain that early advantage.
  8. Land removal is crappy. It was always crappy, though, unless your deck was very well tuned for it (sligh red for example). There is an argument here that land removal becomes very close to discard, since your opponent is likely to replace the land with a new card from their hand. And discard is very good, since your opponent likely has bombs… But it’s a bit circuitous, and land destruction doesn’t usually net card advantage.
  9. Speaking of which, card advantage of any sort becomes huge. You’re not wasting your draws on puny Forests anymore, unless you want to.
  10. Not only does revealing cards from your deck as you play lands show your opponent what your deck is like, it shows your opponent what your hand is like and/or what you’re thinking (I got real worried when I saw that Ring being tossed). There is an interesting opportunity here to send signals to your opponent.
  11. During playtesting (with very terrible, hastily-thrown-together decks), after we got around six mana sources, we kind of stopped playing them, and started playing off the top of the library. A little like Off the Top, which was somewhat worrisome to us. But we figured normal Magic is like that too, once you get six lands. This just was more efficient about getting to that point and staying there.

Anyway, I’m super pumped to play this way. But no one else seems to be as excited (with the notable exception of Matt Cheung, my fellow playtester). QQ