Earlier, the pains of the Core Game were outlined in Part One of this Juggernaut of Thought. The badly chosen 'starter only' choices, the unevenness of the decks, and the ill-preparedness of the product as a whole: it looks as though it was a rushed job done in twenty minutes right before a coffie break, then the Master Copy of the included Magic Online CD burned from a old copy of the Beta Testing disc*.
What should a first impression of Magic be? Three things should spring to mind: Cool(Aesthetically Pleasing), Fun(Well-designed), and Deceptivly Easy on the Surface(good planning). The 8th Edition Core Game, an assortment of two 41-card decks, only glancingly touches each of these three parameters.
The 'Cool' factor is accented by many different factors, such as Artwork, the Card's Layout, and Subtile Interweaving of the Underlying Themes of Magic. The Artwork and Layout are very good compared to most Collectable Card Games avaible today, though the Artwork could be more diverse and the Layout less sleek for a more rustic feeling suitable to a Fantasy game. To include the basic themes of Magic, one must take a look at Magic as a whole, stripped of identifying factors. If Magic as a whole is White Light, WotC's Color Pie is the Magic version of a Prism. Splitting Magic into several colors yields several very similar colors with very little superficial difference. A closer comparison to cards of a similar manner yield different results, however-- each color's stregnths and weaknesses become more opaque and give each color a flavor of its own in the Magic pie. A well designed intro to the game should hold an oddly shaped mirror up to each color, reflecting a slightly twisted version of itself in each of the four fold-out sections of glass.
With this parameter fully in mind, let us split the basics outlined in the '8th Edition Core Game' into a well-developed introduction to the game of Magic. These catagories are from spreading out the colors avaible in the 82 cards and seeking long and hard for patterns.
Let us start with the '1/1 for One' slot. As Wizards of the Coast insists upon it and us players begrudge it to them, White will start us off with the saddened and maddened Eager Cadet. Blue runs away from its problems and offers up a companion, the Fugitive Wizard. Both of these creatures are Vanilla 1/1s, and show that each of their colors does not traditionally have the best mana to p/t ratio. Moving on to the not as weak creatures, we have Black's Plague Beetle and Red's Raging Goblin. Each of these feature simi-simple abilities that a beginner can understand, Landwalk and Haste. In this case, Reminder Text functions to the new player as well as Rules Text does, as it is the rules governing the ability listed on the card. Last up we have Green, the color of efficient, if cumbersome, creatures. The Norwood Ranger fills the 1/1 shoes rather tightly with its 1/2 body.
Up one notch from the most basic step is the Grizzly Bear slot. All 2/2s for two in the Core Game came in twos. Approprateness of this is debatable, but I like the summetry inherent in the 2/2 for 2 in 2's, so we'll keep it the same. White has a bleached Vanilla Grizzly Bear, and Green has the epitome of the Grizzly Bear-style creature with the original and the classic Grizzly Bear. Blue musters the best cheap creature it can do with Coral Eel, or in the future, Single Wizard or Rabid Illusion. Red and Black skulk up with their oh-so-in-flavor ability embodying Black's steadfasted self-preservation instinct and Red's 'Damn the Torpedos' traditions with 'Cannot Block.'
Upping the dB to +3, we have a slot dedicated to carving out the flavor of a color's usual arial interaction. All but one color gains a 1/1 flyer. White gets a one colorless discount, and Red's creature cannot steer worth a crap, thus cannot block attackers. Green prefers to stay on the ground, and Canopy Spider takes care of the air for Green.
The next gain stage is less summetrical and more dedicated to carving out the preference of its color in combat. Green, Black and Red prefer to simply 'Smash Face' with large creatures. Ogre Taskmaster, Spined Wurm, and Serpent Warrior fit the bills nicely and have the appropriate flavors. Blue gains another flyer with Storm Crow, and White is forced to use... a problem. Here lies an odd man out in the Core Game, the Honor Guard. Several beginners have thought this 'pumpable' creature is simply a weaker version of Norwood Elf when directly questioned about it. Multiple Activations arn't realized very quickly, and a player will probably have purchased additional packs before this guy sees any use... why not just have it in packs and be done with it? While an expert can spot that this card is not equivilent to Norwood Ranger and is just a decent 1/1, the 1/1 slot is already filled with the WOTC mandated Eager Cadet. White is similar to Blue in expectations and would be suited with a Flyer in this spot... whether a clone of Sea Eagle, Royal Falcon, is appropriate or the Storm Cow of Armored Pegasus works best depends on how much Vanilla WOTC has added to the Cheesecake Mixture and how much Spice has been porportionally subtracted. Thus this slot is filled... in the future! Right now, we leave the placeholder of Honor Guard, as Starter has dissappeared once again from the database avaible on MOL.
The next step is really more of that little 'U' shape between floors and sets of stairs, as it just builds upon the previous step. Black gets another slightly weakened fattie with the not-so-Giant Cockroach, Red and Green get non-splashable 5/5s for Five with Silverback Gorilla and Hulking Cyclops, though the Cyclopian isn't able to move fast enough to get in the way of a Giant Turtle. Blue has another step up on the Flyer scale with Wind Drake, and White gets a little defensive with the Master Decoy.
Next is another two-piece set of either In-Flavor Fat or Fat Reducers. Black leads the pack on it's view of fat with "Fat? Kill It!" embodied in Dark Banishing. White takes Vengence on the other colors getting fatties of any type, such as Blue's Vizzendrix. Green has a Blaloth of Enormous Size. Red has been drained in this reprint extravaganza, as Vizzendrix's more popular cousin-in-mechanics, the Trained version of Me, was spared the idignity of the too-light Red frames in the first transition to the Technoframe. The Edition of the Nth Degree should restore the Trained Orgg into being instead of the Hill Giants that currently sit in his spot, as Overcosted Groundpounding Fat (that happens to block) is within Red's usual offerings. If two vanilla 6/6es for Seven is too many(and really, it is) make Hill Giant into a currently-non-legal version therof, such as Portal 2's Ogre Warrior or the Boarish Obsidian Giant. If he's not too complicated, Hired Giant may be willing to lend his services to this spot in the Beginner's Set as well.
Banishing and Vengence introduce us to our next choice: The door we walk through. While Creatures will draw a player into Magic's deep and complicated rules structure, the most flavorful elements of Magic comes from the non-creature spells avaible. Green's door is tempting with Naturalize, Blanchwood Armor, Rampant Growth and the oh-so-good-but-situational Elvish Champion(in foil, because the fat-but-not-mechanically elf is the primere creature of the set; Nth Edition will feature Trained Orgg as the foiled one, as I NEED an Orgg avatar on Magic Online, complete with small stool with breechcloth's thong showing blatantly, knees up to its chin, with Left Upper Arm across the knees, Right Upper arm propping up the head and occasionally scratching behind its head, and the two lower hands holding a hand of cards in the vertical method. Errherrm. Sorry.). White's door promises an illusion of Long Life with Healing Salve, Holy Day, Sacred Nectar and Sanctimony. Red's door has been destroyed with a Volcanic Hammer, Lava Axe, Shock and Stone Rain, Black's entrance will scare some away with it's Dead Raisin', Grave Diggin', Mind Rottin' Feast of the Soul, and Blue will manipulate itself into some players' hearts with Inspiration, Unsummon, Boomerang, and Index. Most doors have two simi-playable spells and two not-so-great spells, one of the Playables which is actually quite limited in use, though that isn't obvious at first glance. This area is what could use the most 'planned improvements' in the next edition, as Blue is practically begging for Leap to be added to its cards in this set, and other colors might want to think about changing some things up as well to better exeplify its personal characteristics.
With the selection of cards made, a tally shows that the decks stall at fifty-five cards after including ten of each land, an amount that is almost more than sufficient for twelve cards per color. Artifacts can be a neat addition to a deck, expecially some that are aimed at the more novice players. The prime example of a Skill Testing artifact is Spellbook. Let us put one of them in. One weakness some colors have is a small lack of fat creatures, so Phrexian Hulk will help out our White and Blue friends ovecome some of the weakness, as well as give a little more consistency to what will become a three-color sixty card deck. The other side has a weakness against Flyers, not having as many consistent ones, so Patagia Golem flies up above to block the various Crows and other Macrel that may be in the air. Our beginner still hasn't seen all the various creature abilities avaible in the Basic Set, so we need to add some of the more basic ones to the pile. The disadvantage to Walls oppose that of Black and Red's more efficient creatures, only blocking and not attacking, thus adding symmetry to our selection and more aesthetics by showing two extremes; the only wall that doesn't feature Flying or an Activated Ability is Wall of Spears, and in it goes; now the only Keyword ability that is excluded is Fear, an ability whose keywording was uncalled for and is unbalanced in the basic set, as beginners do not want to find out they cannot block a creature unless they have made a certain choice-- a card like Phantom Warrior that flat out says it cannot be blocked is less offensive to their self-esteem, so Fear is left out in the cold. One final slot is avaible for an Artifact. Since we already have our one actual rare chosen for us, we must take another Uncommon. Rod of Ruin sticks out as a good skill tester that isn't actually 'bad' as a card in itself. It also helps out against the weenie-style creatures in the decks, and may help a newbie out by being a combat trick to finish off a creature. Now five slots are left. The original version of the Core Game included a foil basic land for the 'cool' factor... Why don't we do a similar thing and put in some foil lands, bringing the land total up to eleven per twelve cards, ensuring the overcosted fat will see play by approximatly ninth turn(appropriatly) a little under fifty percent of the time. The question arises how to distribute the Artifacts and Lands in the decks. Since Spellbook seems so good, let us give the deck that contains it only two of the foil lands, evening out the 'cool' factor. Most of the other artifacts won't attract much attention at first, as they don't have such a mind-bogglingly 'wierd' ability. Before deciding the fate of the other four artifacts, allow us to pair up our combatants. Now we have everything tidy in its place.
Since White is the only color that does not have double-mana in any of its casting costs, White will obviously be the Splash color, and the deck without the Spellbook will get an additional Foil Plains. Pull one of Vengence and Glory Seeker into the first deck along with that excess Plains to start. Now look at the other four color combonations. Since the Color Wheel is such an emphasis at Wizards of the Coast currently, we need to pair up friends with friends. Thus, Green's fat and Blue's fat shall be facing each other, creating tension. Green will be trading off creatures with Blue and Blue's only wholly avaible friend, Black. Black will be bringing back the dead, and Red will be aiding green in burning off those little guys. Sounds quite fun for two absolute beginners for a while, doesn't it? Now what side does each of White's cards fall upon? Blue/Black seems a little stronger to me in card content, so the weaker-yet-doesn't-look-it Sanctimony and Sacred Nectar go into U/B, as well as the Vengeance/Glory Seeker pair. Since the efficient flying catagory is simi-blue sounding, the Hawk also will go into Blue's side of the decks. Polishing up the blue/black deck's splash is Master Decoy for tapping down the more-efficient fat. Green's side will accept the Eager Cadet, as it likes its one-casting-cost things for their speed. Glory Seeker joins up with whatever replaces Honor Guard and Vengeance. The last white card to be added in is the Traitor to Green, Holy Day, which has now asked for Green's forgiveness and pledged to share its ability in some tweaks or another. Artifacts are next to be divvied. Since Red and Green have quite a few large critters, Phrexian Hulk defects to Blue and Black. Since there's also no direct damage in Blue or Black's corner, Rod of Ruin might help out with its reusable ping since Blue has lost the Tim ability and requires additional help with the area of Tricks, as does Black in this self-contained set. Green and Red lack flyers(to give the other deck a litte chance at the air), in goes Patagia Golem to their side. Only Wall of Spears and Spellbook remain to be divvied. Since Blue has a few spells that could possibly increase the size of your hand or keep it static, a Spellbook might seem to aid Blue in it's quests. Thus, We Now Have two sixty card decks that allow two absolutly new players to see the game ebb and flow.
All that is needed now is deciding what cards should be removed from the main packs of the set and left to the unprofessionals. The easiest way to do this is go through the deck and remove what seems too weak for any form of limted even like Booster Drafts or Leagues on MOL. Pulling out what simply isn't good is deceptivly simple... as a friend pointed out to me, Vengence is one of two four-mana White removal spells-- Chastise is the other. You don't want too many cards with powerful effects mucking up a limited enviroment, so one of them must be starter-only. As Vengence allows the killing of Tap-Activated creatures that do not attack, it is slightly better than Chastise. Chastise can be played around a little easier, as no cards force you to attack in 8th Edition... but there are a few cards that force creatures to tap, allowing Vengence to slaughter them. Thus, the stronger is chained to the Starter Game. Vengence swears Revenge upon us, as it has only been allowed to roam in the Starter-level products for SO LONG... Next we have the 1/1 for 1 in White and Blue, so goodbye to you two. Sacred Nectar is useless in draft and competes against Healing Salve as Worst Card In The pack, yet Healing Salve is interesting in a draft, so out Nectar should go to Starterland. While harping on white, whatever replaces the Honor Guard, be it Royal Falcon or Armored Pegasus should avoid the boosters so as to reduce the amount of white flyers in the boosters. To visit Blue's 1/1, we must leave Coral Eel or his 2/1 creature-appropriate decendent(Probably Rabid Illusion, as Single Wizard has too many Muscle-Burst jokes built in), as blue just doesn't do efficient creatures. Sea Eagle just had a fight with Storm Cow and predictably lost, so into the Starter he goes as well. Vizzendrix isn't-quite-ready for Drafting just yet, so it'll keep company with the Blaloth it has a crush on, or vice versa. The Blaloth also doesn't want to be drafted just yet, as it's contented to stay fat and lazy after a few months of service. As Spined Wurm is a bit tired of being handled by so many players, it lets the Silverback Ape integrate itself in to the collections of more people, as it has had even less company than Vengence-- at least Vengence was in three of five Starter products-- the Ape was only avaible in one, and was quite Uncommon to see his eager face in Starter anyway.
And so we have One quality foil rare, five 'foil' lands, and twelve true uncommons, rounding out with a speedlimit of lands and commons to taste, with N1/N10 to N10/N10 (or mabe N11 if the Trained Orgg returns) exclusive to those who are just beginning.
*this I don't believe is Wizards of the Coast's fault. The company hired out to design the Magic Online/8th Core Demo Disc did not think through the project, causing the disc to be useless to those without an internet connection and patience enough to wait four hours, then another hour as the Tutorial downloads as well. The Demo Disc of Magic should be installable and immediately playable, like the original Starter disc included in the Starter 2000 Demo Set. This would allow those without an internet connection to learn to play via the computer without waiting.