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Open Letter to Randy and Mark
By Kirsin Koch
"So, for example, we played with Wild Mongrel but I don't think we appreciated quite how insane he is, especially with Madness cards. We also had a red-white cycling deck based on Lightning Rift, but we didn't put Astral Slide into it. And no one ever put Upheaval into a constructed deck. Oops."

Hello to Randy and Mark in particular,

I'm writing in response to the above line in Randy's article entitled "A Future for FFL Articles" because I can’t be silent anymore. I have wanted to write for a very long time, since Odyssey block started as a matter of fact, to express what I feel is are repeatedly badly misstated statements from your “lead developer for Magic: The Gathering”, Randy Buehler. I know you can’t please every player, but I have to point out what I feel is the persecution of a card that isn’t nearly as problematic as Randy Buehler believes as a prime example of the misstatements I have repeatedly read by Randy Buehler.

In his first article “Unbreaking Transcendance” on January 4, 2002, Randy Buehler states its his team’s “responsibility to test [the cards the design team comes up with], figure out what they should cost, make sure they aren’t broken, and so on. As the lead Magic developer, my job is to organize the whole development process. Ultimately, I’m responsible for making sure that nothing goes wrong.” That’s a lot of responsibility. This is not a job I would want for a game with as many fickle players as Magic: The Gathering has.

However, it looks like Randy’s team is keeping up with it per Elaine Chase’s response in the Ask Wizard’s column on April 26, 2002 about why Wild Mongrel was created and the madness mechanic:
A: From Elaine Chase, Research & Development:
"Wild Mongrel was the most high-profile result of R&D trying to get a threshold enabler into constructed. While the Mongrel was in development before madness was designed, once madness was created the development team was happy to have a constructed-level card that worked well with the new mechanic. Wild Mongrel was one of the most heavily-played cards in the Future Future League throughout both Odyssey and Torment development, so it was tested heavily with madness cards.”

That last line interests me the most. Randy stated, “we played with Wild Mongrel but I don't think we appreciated quite how insane he is, especially with Madness cards.” This is in direct conflict with Elaine Chase’s quote. Also, I note that Elaine Chase is another member of R&D for Wizards of the Coast.

On May 17, 2002, Randy's article entitled "The Restock Mechanic" has a very interesting line: "I should probably clarify one thing I said on this subject last week. I did say to enjoy Wild Mongrel while you still can because we aren’t going to print any more green weenies that good. Several of you misread that as ‘we aren’t going to print any more good green weenies.’ Like I said in the previous paragraph, R&D believes green should get the second best crop of small guys and that will include plenty that are good enough to play, even in cutthroat tournament decks." So this is R&D’s stance on green weenies and the color wheel. Okay. Fairly distressing still for my favorite color, but I can deal with that.

On July 5, 2002, in the article “That Big, Toothy Grin”, Randy Buehler states, “If I could go back and change things I would probably take away the +1/+1 part of Wild Mongrel (leaving it with just the color changing ability)”. Why would Randy choose to take away “the +1/+1 part of” Wild Mongrel? Didn’t Elaine Chase state, “Wild Mongrel was one of the most heavily-played cards in the Future Future League throughout both Odyssey and Torment development, so it was tested heavily with madness cards.” So, that +1/+1 ability should have been okay if it was indeed “tested heavily”. Also, didn’t the World Championships clearly show last year that 6 of the top 8 decks were based around the use of Psychatog? Granted, Randy did also state, “I would make Psychatog discard two cards for +1/+1.” How much playtesting did Psychatog get then if the “the +1/+1 part of” Wild Mongrel slipped through R&D’s heavy playtesting? However, more players obviously successfully used a Psychatog-based deck to get ahead in the 2002 World Championships than Wild Mongrel. Lets continue with this comparison of Psychatog and Wild Mongrel and look at another article (and poll) of Randy’s…

On July 12, 2002, Randy's article entitled "Psychatog Redux" was published online. At the very beginning the results of a poll were shown, stating that 64.1% of online voters in Randy's poll did not think Psychatog was too broken to have been printed. Obviously, this poll was about Psychatog, and not Wild Mongrel. Notice Pyschatog was chosen to poll over Wild Mongrel, which would lead one to assume that Psychatog is far more controversial than Wild Mongrel.

Randy also states, “It follows from this understanding that there should be cards as powerful as Wild Mongrel and Psychatog. However, it doesn’t follow that the Mongrel and the Psychatog themselves should be as good as they are. The reason why they might be inappropriate is because they are “enablers” for our other mechanics.” Okay, I’m going to to attempt to simplify this quote into my own words: “Wild Mongrel and Psychatog are good. No, wait, Wild Mongrel and Psychatog are too good. They are too good because they work with our other mechanics.” Wait, isn’t Magic: The Gathering all about finding card interactions and breaking them for your own benefit? Isn’t R&D testing within the Future Future League supposed to weed out the overlypowerful cards? Elaine Chase said they were, didn’t she? Oh, yes, here’s the quote: “Wild Mongrel was one of the most heavily-played cards in the Future Future League throughout both Odyssey and Torment development, so it was tested heavily with madness cards.” But apparently, this is what happened in Future Future League instead: “we played with Wild Mongrel but I don't think we appreciated quite how insane he is, especially with Madness cards.” It seems to me the lead developer in R&D and his staff did not get the same inter-office memos…

Again with the interesting quotes on August 30, 2002 in the article “What I Really Learned at Worlds 2”. “I think part of the problem is that some cards were simply too much better than the other available options (Nantuko Shade and Wild Mongrel come to mind). We also underestimated the madness mechanic, and Wonder was probably more important to the format than we intended it to be.” Again, let me simplify this statement in my own words: “We didn’t make enough good creatures for the environment and the players gravited to the best cards instead of playing the second-best cards. We created a mechanic that was too good, and we underestimated Wonder in the Judgment set.” At the beginning of this article, Randy Buehler admits that the Future Future League failed to playtest all of the cards given to it to playtest, and again here, we see further evidence of this. But didn’t Elaine Chase say…

Again in this article, we see more evidence of Psychatog’s prevelance over Wild Mongrel: “So 'Tog was 50% of the field but only 35% of the top of the Swiss and UG madness actually probably put up the most impressive weekend (it's overall record was 94-66-2 to Tog's 318-314-52).” But Psychatog has a 64.1% “approval rating.” So, that would lead one to presume that Wild Mongrel posed less of threat to the environment it is present in versus Psychatog. So, lets see how players ranked the problematic cards of the environment at the time:

On September 6, 2002, Randy Buehler's article entitled "Online Rotations" was published with the poll results of what card should be banned in Standard (at the time). In that poll, Upheaval is at the top of the list with 27.4% followed by Fact or Fiction (22.6%), Psychatog (19.0%), and THEN Wild Mongrel (10.9%). Randy's feelings about this poll were, "I agree completely with this conclusion – if I had to ban one card right now, it would be Upheaval." So, Upheaval, which works best with Psychatog, needed to be banned at the time, not the “tested heavily” Wild Mongrel? Also, of all the cards listed, Wild Mongrel comes in fourth. Again, in the poll under the “Psychatog Redux” article, 64.1% of online voters voted that they believed Psychatog should have been printed. By this comparison, Wild Mongrel should theoretically get an even higher percentage of votes than Psychatog does. Also note that the top three cards all share blue as a color and take up 69% of the total polled voters. Something tells me green and its weenies were not the problematic color at the time of this poll.

Here’s an off-hand comment from February 14, 2003 in the “The Wizards Invitational” article that is contradictory to all of Randy’s statements up until this point: “I hear Wild Mongrel is still in print, but I'm not sure I believe that because I haven't actually played with one in what feels like years.” For a card that was so over-powered that he would have gone back and changed its abilities, he obviously plays it so very much.

This is a final quote from Randy Buehler that

Let’s briefly look at the banned and restricted list for all the different formats:
Odyssey Block:
Nothing

Standard:
Nothing

Extended:
Only combo pieces, card drawing, and mana acceleration.

Type 1:
I don’t see a single creature on this list that doesn’t have to do with ante. And between Wild Mongrel and Psychatog, only Psychatog is showing up in Type 1. Obviously Wild Mongrel is not the powerhouse of a card that Randy's comments would lead you to believe.

At the beginning of this letter, I quote Randy Buehler’s admittance to bad playtesting in R&D’s Future Future League. He admits they tested some cards and completely ignored others. So why is Wild Mongrel consistently considered an R&D mistake through all of Randy Buehler’s articles? I'm finding it difficult to justify Upheaval with an “Oops” as well. Randy Buehler's column is also the same running column where is has been explained that white would get all the good flying creatures and green would have the Ophidian ability from now on. However, later, the cards Wonder and Synapse Sliver are printed. I don’t understand how Randy Buehler can be the public face of R&D and come across as this incompetent and inconsistent. Why would the head of R&D publicly admit that it’s their job to playtest everything, yet they failed to do so for environment defining cards?

I enjoy reading the articles at http://www.magicthegathering.com, but I’m finding all too often that I don’t enjoy Randy Buehler’s articles. To me, the public relations he’s inspiring are often negative, simply incorrect, and contradictory to other voices within R&D and his own words. Is this really the face you want R&D to show to the fan-base that makes this game possible?

Sincerely,
Kirsin Koch
“Dune Echo”, Co-founder of the Casual Players Association
http://www.casualplayers.org

P.S. And on a side note: in the results for the poll asking "What color should get the best weenies?" in the article entitled "The Restock Mechanic", white got 57% of the online votes. So answer me this, why is Waylay still errata'd (and so badly)? It strikes me that Waylay would be a perfect card for a white weenie deck under the 6th Edition rules structure, if indeed white is meant to have the best weenies.

Read More Articles by Kirsin Koch!

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