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 Post subject: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 6:14 am 

Joined: 2018-Jan-16 2:57 am
Age: Hatchling
Hello all, this is November. I play Commander regularly at an LGS that tends to run above average on Commander's power level scale. Most players (75%+) at my shop regularly have $1000+ decks, powerful cards and play relatively competitively.

I'd like to take this opportunity to comment on the banning of Paradox Engine, which I believe was misguided, grossly inconsistent with previous bans and unbans, and fails to reflect the spirit of the recent updates to the Format Philosophy Document.

First off, Paradox Engine is absolutely a powerful card. It even falls into one of the highest categories of powerful cards, those that need a commonly available board state to generate a win. However, I believe that the reasons provided for banning it, while leaving other far more problematic cards unbanned, are not sound.

I will go through each reason provided for banning Paradox Engine, and explain why I believe these to be incorrect and shortsighted.

1. Paradox Engine is a card that has proven to be intensely problematic.

Almost no information was provided to the community over the definition of "intensely problematic". In what metas? In what power-level? How has this been empirically determined or proven?

This appears to be a blanket, subjective statement about the card that that is not supported anywhere near to the degree of "proven.", and is instead more likely to be derived from specific experiences of the RC and CAG.

Just because a card is problematic in certain metas does not mean that the card should be banned in all metas, in some where it is perfectly acceptable and healthy. In highly competitive metas like the one I play in, banning Paradox Engine makes the meta worse than it was before.

I asked many high-end players at my shop what they thought of the ban. The most common answer that I heard was "heh. I just slotted in more stax, and I'll depend on other existing artifact win conditions."

Banning Paradox Engine increases the requirement that powerful artifact decks slow down their opponents, making for worse games overall. It increases the dependency on "stax" pieces, such as Orbs, which drag games down. It deprives artifact decks of a powerful win condition, and makes them more reliant on dragging opponents down into a less interesting game instead of trying to explosively win.

2. Not only does it provide easy wins seemingly out of nowhere, it has demonstrated the potential to unintentionally wreck games.

Paradox Engine is not a card that unintentionally wrecks games. It intentionally wins games. It is specifically a colorless win condition. It interacts with artifacts to win the game, by generating massive resource advantage, generally converting this mana into cards quite quickly, then a lethal outlet to win the game.

It is functionally similar to a large class of legal cards that are available to the other colors that interact with a specific board state to shift resource distribution to a massive degree, often to the point of a win.

White: Replenish/Open the Vaults, Armageddon, Ravages of War, Cataclysm
Blue: Cyclonic Rift, Expropriate, Enter the Infinite, Laboratory Maniac
Black: Torment of Hailfire, Necropotence, Doomsday, Rise of the Dark Realms
Red: Insurrection, Obliterate, Decree of Annihilation (usually cycled), Scrap Mastery
Green: Craterhoof Behemoth, Overwhelming Stampede, Primal Surge, Tooth and Nail

All of these cards create power swings or game wins easily on par with what Paradox Engine is capable of, with a similarly developed board-state, yet they are all allowed.

3. Easily inserted into any deck, it combines with cards which players already have heavy incentives to play, generating a great deal of mana with virtually no deck building cost. Paradox Engine has clearly demonstrated that it doesn’t need to be built around to be broken.

Paradox Engine does interact with mana rocks, and it is true that many Commander decks include mana rocks, at least those that are not running green land-ramp. Paradox Engine needs to be built around in order to be used to its maximum potential, as a win condition. It requires that a deck have both mana producing artifacts or creatures, plus outlets to convert that mana into cards or negative effects for your opponents.

It is possible that the card is more of an issue in a meta where large amounts of players "jam" it in various casual decks as a way to untap mana and get value out of long, grindy turns, rather than to win the game. That is not the case in a higher powered meta, where it generally wins the game if unanswered.

I do not believe it is appropriate to ban a card because players are using it improperly, or below its maximum potential. There are many legal cards available that when used improperly are detrimental to the game, including most of the above list! Examples of this include Cyclonic Rifting without a board state, pointless mass LD, playing a soft lock without a win condition or playing a Winter Orb while behind without a way to break parity.

Next, I believe that the Paradox Engine ban is inconsistent with several parts of the new Commander Philosophy Document.

1. The goal of the ban list is similar; it does not seek to regulate competitive play or power level, which are decisions best left to individual play groups.

The ban of Paradox Engine does exactly this - it massively warps the higher end Commander metas away from artifacts. It makes artifacts decks less consistent, less powerful, and far beneath other strategies such as Protean Hulk, Food Chain and partner combos. It forces anyone who spent money on decks like these to completely rebuild different archetypes, or simply lose games.

Additionally, this ban completely clashes with the previous decision of the RC to unban Protean Hulk, that also had massive impact on higher-power metas. Why is it okay for Protean Hulk to be legal, when it is a win condition with potency far beyond even Paradox Engine?

All it has to do is die, and it wins the game. Protean Hulk is so powerful, it literally depends on the state of your library - not your board state, as Paradox Engine does. It even tutors for its own protection in the form of Grand Abolisher, preventing responses once it's ability has resolved.

If the goal is to avoid regulating competitive play, then both Protean Hulk and Paradox Engine should both remain legal. I believe that the evidence here shows that the two decisions taken together, banning Paradox Engine and unbanning Protean Hulk are completely inconsistent with one another. By doing so, the RC has absolutely enforced regulation over high-end and/or competitive play, by warping and constricting its meta for the worse.

2. We prefer to be conservative with what goes on or comes off the ban list.

Being conservative is far different than being selective, which is what the RC has done with this ban. Paradox Engine was in the format since January 20th, 2017, when Aether Revolt was released. What changed that made it worth banning more than two and a half years later? I don't understand why if the RC thought the card was "intensely problematic" that it wasn't banned in the next announcement after Aether Revolt.

Urza, Lord High Artificer is the only significant thing I can think of that could potentially tip favor of a Paradox Engine ban, but I find that his power level is not out of balance with other high-power commanders, and not a sufficient reason to specifically ban Paradox Engine.

-----

Finally, my personal reason for the dislike of this banning:

3. Commander players often become emotionally attached to their decks through play and personalization, and we value that experience highly. We only want to disrupt that bond when necessary.

I love love love love colorless Eldrazi decks. The loss of Paradox Engine singlehandledly crushes the competitiveness of this archetype. It forces the deck to assemble a two-card combo (without tutors...) in order to win rather than combine Paradox Engine, mana rocks plus Kozilek in the command zone to generate resource swing.

I can literally no longer play this deck in my meta, because of this ban, it drops away from the power level that is needed to win games in my meta.

So, I have to take apart a fun, but powerful, deck that I enjoy playing because it is no longer competitive enough to play in my meta, and instead play one of the other far more powerful archetype that the RC arbitrarily deems is okay.

This is anything but fun, which is supposed to be the point of Commander as a whole. :/


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 7:46 am 
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Joined: 2019-Jul-16 9:21 pm
Age: Wyvern
I just want to say that I think it’s awesome that you took the time to explain your reasoning on this. Paradox Engine is definitely a controversial card, but this is probably the best argument in favor of it that I’ve ever seen. Although I still personally dislike the card and don’t mind seeing it banned, at the same time I can understand your side of things and where you’re coming from. Great post, and I apologize in advance for the numerous pretentious and condescending comments that you’re probably going to get from some other users on here.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 8:25 am 

Joined: 2012-Mar-31 11:52 am
Age: Elder Dragon
I'm going to echo OMJ that I appreciate your well thought out post, rather than just getting emotional and attacking the RC/CAG.

Now, I could dissect and respond to multiple parts of your post, but I think there is one part I want to focus on:

Quote:
because players are using it improperly, or below its maximum potential

This is the whole point of Commander. We're playing with broken cards because we don't want to break them.

Look, there's nothing wrong with the 75% on up to 100% tier of Commander, but that isn't representative of the whole format nor the reason people play. So when the ban list is approached, it should be at that 50% level, not the 100% level. Y'all are smart and meta for that stuff, you'll start building answers into your decks, because there are a finite amount of decks and archetypes. But for us scrubs, how do you metagame against someone playing Brion Stoutarm and another playing Karavek?


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 10:18 am 

Joined: 2011-Feb-15 7:09 am
Age: Drake
Improper. Lol. In my meta dudes play instants at sorcery speed :p I really hope you get to play the card again soon if it means that much to you.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 11:20 am 
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Joined: 2010-Jul-18 9:59 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
/argues that the ban is a bad decision based on the "specific experiences of the RC and CAG" - a group which consists of 10+ different people in 10+ different playgroups spread all over the country, as well as the online games those people play.

/also argues that it's not problematic because of the ONE playgroup they play it in.

Are you not seeing the contradiction here?

_________________
"Degenerate, unfun decks generally come from degenerate, unfun players in my experience." - Cthulus Thrall

"- if this spell is played ten times in a given game then I suggest you warm up the tar and pluck some chickens" - tarnar

The internet's great at making noise, and poor at operating pants. There's gonna be half-dressed mobs screeching half-assed arguments for the rest of the 21st century - Kemev


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 1:03 pm 
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Joined: 2012-Feb-07 4:15 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Honestly, something I think that should have been mentioned in the announcement is how the problems Engine creates are similar to other cards on the banned list, namely Prophet of Kruphix and Tolarian Academy. Much like Prophet, it looks like a generic value engine on paper but in practice does nothing but allow its controller to decksturbate and add 20 minutes of decision making, turning the whole board sideways, turning it back, and more decision making to each turn. Much like Tolarian Academy, its power ceiling is infinite and its power floor is zero, making decks that include it more likely to be warped to include as many ways to accommodate it as possible.

I personally never bought one, because just looking at it I could tell that if I put it in one of the decks I own where it'd be good (Jhoira, Omnath, Arcades, Kynaios and Tiro) that it'd be something I and the rest of the table would get bored with it after the second time it shows up and I'd take it out and sell it back. Apparently I'm an anomaly there, as that exact story happened to several friends of mine with it.

And while we're on that note, another medium-sized mythic artifact that causes 20-minute turns and which I certainly wouldn't mind getting the banhammer and will now rant about: The Chain Veil. I'm pretty sure the number one reason so many people despise Superfriends is because of how long every turn takes once 3 or more walkers are out and the player has to keep track of which abilities have been activated, how they all synergize with each other, their interactions with the rest of the board, and of course managing the freaking loyalty counters. Chain Veil comes in and takes all of those problems and turns them up to 11. And it's never activated when only one walker is in play, nor is it run in any deck other than Superfriends. And my absolute favorite thing in the world is when the Chain Veil player is running blue and therefore original Tezzeret and Teferi. And they have the means to go obscenely large if not infinite with it but don't yet realize and instead just pull off every repeated activation one at a time, putting the same amount of time and thought into it each time and ensuring such a dull game that everyone within a mile radius starts to get sleepy eyed.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 4:16 pm 
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Joined: 2019-Jul-16 9:21 pm
Age: Wyvern
OldManJenkins wrote:
Great post, and I apologize in advance for the numerous pretentious and condescending comments that you’re probably going to get from some other users on here


Viperion wrote:
/argues that the ban is a bad decision based on the "specific experiences of the RC and CAG" - a group which consists of 10+ different people in 10+ different playgroups spread all over the country, as well as the online games those people play.

/also argues that it's not problematic because of the ONE playgroup they play it in.

Are you not seeing the contradiction here?


Well that didn't take very long.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-19 4:37 pm 
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Joined: 2010-Jul-18 9:59 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
I'm not (trying to be ) condescending - I think the point is valid.

I don't assume my playgroup is the one that plays EDH the way most other playgroups play EDH; obviously my own experiences are all the experiences I get to draw on, and so if I draw conclusions from my experiences I'm going to think they're the correct ones, as they are the ones that line up with those experiences.

There have been a lot of people posting saying "Well it ("it" in this case being the banning of Paradox Engine) hasn't been a problem in my playgroup, so it's not a problem". That's not how it works; the RC and the CAG all have their own playgroups, plus the experiences of any other playgroups that have talked to the members of the RC or the CAG. I would be extremely surprised if any one poster here (myself included) has been exposed to more playgroups than any one person on the RC or CAG.

I honestly don't see how "my playgroup doesn't have it as a problem" is an argument against "the RC are just banning this because it's a problem in their group" when in reality the number of EDH players reached by the RC and CAG exceeds any number of EDH players reached by any one poster here.

Since the ban, there have been a lot of these posts, and (again obviously) all of those posts start adding up to a significant number of people, and that's something the RC should definitely take into consideration. But just the notion that "my" playgroup has more knowledge of the format than the combined playgroups of the RC and CAG is something that keeps coming up and I think it's a false equivalency, at best, and elitism at worst.

_________________
"Degenerate, unfun decks generally come from degenerate, unfun players in my experience." - Cthulus Thrall

"- if this spell is played ten times in a given game then I suggest you warm up the tar and pluck some chickens" - tarnar

The internet's great at making noise, and poor at operating pants. There's gonna be half-dressed mobs screeching half-assed arguments for the rest of the 21st century - Kemev


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-22 12:54 pm 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Hampshire
Viperion wrote:
I'm not (trying to be ) condescending - I think the point is valid.

Don't feed the troll.

_________________
"The President's job - and if someone sufficiently vain and stupid is picked he won't realize this - is not to wield power, but to draw attention away from it." -- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide tot he Galaxy Radio Transcripts predicting the future.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-22 3:01 pm 
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Joined: 2019-Jul-16 9:21 pm
Age: Wyvern
Sid the Chicken wrote:
Viperion wrote:
I'm not (trying to be ) condescending - I think the point is valid.

Don't feed the troll.


That's right. Sid's mother doesn't need anymore food. She's fat enough as it is.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-23 7:01 am 

Joined: 2018-Jan-16 2:57 am
Age: Hatchling
cryogen wrote:
Look, there's nothing wrong with the 75% on up to 100% tier of Commander, but that isn't representative of the whole format nor the reason people play. So when the ban list is approached, it should be at that 50% level, not the 100% level.

The banned list would look a lot different as of right now if it was actually balanced to create the most positive play experience for those in casual-to-moderate power levels of Commander play. Instead, I believe the RC has balanced it to eliminate the "worst of the worst", cards that are too far out of line to be a positive experience ever - across the complete power level spectrum.

It is possible that Paradox Engine could cause a bad experience in some metas if it's just plopped on the table and used to take a long, durdly turn. If people use it properly, it wins the game. I just don't think the RC should be banning a fun and very "battlecruiser" artifact powerhouse because it is occasionally used in such a way that generates a negative game state.

There are so many legal cards that generate far more misery, far less interesting game states, and far worse outcomes when used improperly in casual games than Paradox Engine. This includes using them when someone is behind, just to stall, or to slow down the game without a win condition available.

I'll start with this list for example:

    Winter Orb
    Static Orb
    Armageddon / Ravages of War / all other mass land destruction cards
    Cyclonic Rift
    Sunder
    Mindslicer
    Chains of Mephistopheles
    Nether Void
    Sire of Insanity
    Storage Matrix
    Fatespinner
    Vorinclex & Jin-Gitaxias
    Mass chaos cards (Scrambleverse/Thieves Auction/etc)

The major differentiation here, and why I believe Paradox Engine should remain legal is that it is in the class of the above cards, which are all legal. All of these cards have the ability to create negative experiences for players, but only if a player uses it in a sub-optimal way, such as without an available win condition, against decks that obviously are not prepared to deal with it, or are greatly below their power level.

This is a sharp contrast to other cards banned for creating negative game states, such as Leovold or Braids. They create a negative game state naturally, by being on the field, which I believe is part of the reason that Iona was banned. There isn't really a way to play those cards without causing a negative game state.

Additionally, the RC held the view that "Losing the game is not a negative game state", for quite a while, yet, they ban Paradox Engine for generating "wins out of nowhere". All the while, there are tons of single cards that I quoted in my original post that create the huge swings of game-state consistent with "winning out of nowhere", and yet they are legal. I felt this was another inconsistent part of this particular ban.

Viperion wrote:
/also argues that it's not problematic because of the ONE playgroup they play it in.

Are you not seeing the contradiction here?

I only believe that the RC should consider a card's impact on gameplay at all power levels, to be consistent with the way they have handled the banned list for the history of the format. They ban cards because they are consistently negative across all power levels, and do not cater to any specific power level, not 50%, not 100%.

When banning a card, I believe that this sentiment is correct. A card should be a consistently negative experience across all or most power levels, including at the 80-95% where my LGS sits, in order to get banned. Paradox Engine is far from negative at higher-than-moderate power levels, fuels strategies that can keep up with the rest of that meta, and wins games.

I believe that Paradox Engine was banned with the casual-to-moderate meta in mind - as that is where it is most likely misused to create misery rather than win the game. That just doesn't match up with the way they've handled the banned list in the past, which is why I believe that there was at least a partially subjective component to this decision.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-23 7:46 am 
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Joined: 2006-May-18 5:21 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
November wrote:
I believe that Paradox Engine was banned with the casual-to-moderate meta in mind - as that is where it is most likely misused to create misery rather than win the game. That just doesn't match up with the way they've handled the banned list in the past, which is why I believe that there was at least a partially subjective component to this decision.


Can confirm. As with all prior bans, our main concern was the more casual audience. I think that does match up with how we've handled bans in the past; you may disagree with particular cases, but that's the general philosophy.

As to the other cards you mention, most of them don't see nearly the quantity of play as Paradox Engine; casual groups have shown the ability to steer clear. The ones that do see higher play (Cyclonic Rift, Vorinclex, Jin-Gitaxis) are constantly discussed.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-23 8:40 am 

Joined: 2019-Jul-18 7:14 am
Age: Drake
I know perceived barrier to entry no longer factors in, but how does actual barrier to entry affect things? I think the fact that Paradox Engine is a mythic from a block that went sideways fast and resulted in a card that was always kind of expensive means I perceive it so that only people playing it know what they're doing. That might be an overstatement as no one I know went down that road, but it doesn't mean other less-experienced players don't have the money to get it.

On the flip side, the most annoying card to me is cyclonic rift because it was in the Teferi precon so people play it as a panic button who were handed it in a precon no effort asked. That doesn't mean it needs to be banned. Those players need to learn how to use it productively. The time spent on the learning experience is just frustrating, and I am not sure it is even worth the effort. I think I am the only person in our group that will just not overload it to not waste time but try to get a good enough advantage.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-23 8:48 am 

Joined: 2012-Mar-31 11:52 am
Age: Elder Dragon
November wrote:
cryogen wrote:
Look, there's nothing wrong with the 75% on up to 100% tier of Commander, but that isn't representative of the whole format nor the reason people play. So when the ban list is approached, it should be at that 50% level, not the 100% level.

The banned list would look a lot different as of right now if it was actually balanced to create the most positive play experience for those in casual-to-moderate power levels of Commander play. Instead, I believe the RC has balanced it to eliminate the "worst of the worst", cards that are too far out of line to be a positive experience ever - across the complete power level spectrum.

It is possible that Paradox Engine could cause a bad experience in some metas if it's just plopped on the table and used to take a long, durdly turn. If people use it properly, it wins the game. I just don't think the RC should be banning a fun and very "battlecruiser" artifact powerhouse because it is occasionally used in such a way that generates a negative game state.

There are so many legal cards that generate far more misery, far less interesting game states, and far worse outcomes when used improperly in casual games than Paradox Engine. This includes using them when someone is behind, just to stall, or to slow down the game without a win condition available.

I'll start with this list for example:

    Winter Orb
    Static Orb
    Armageddon / Ravages of War / all other mass land destruction cards
    Cyclonic Rift
    Sunder
    Mindslicer
    Chains of Mephistopheles
    Nether Void
    Sire of Insanity
    Storage Matrix
    Fatespinner
    Vorinclex & Jin-Gitaxias
    Mass chaos cards (Scrambleverse/Thieves Auction/etc)

The major differentiation here, and why I believe Paradox Engine should remain legal is that it is in the class of the above cards, which are all legal. All of these cards have the ability to create negative experiences for players, but only if a player uses it in a sub-optimal way, such as without an available win condition, against decks that obviously are not prepared to deal with it, or are greatly below their power level.

This is a sharp contrast to other cards banned for creating negative game states, such as Leovold or Braids. They create a negative game state naturally, by being on the field, which I believe is part of the reason that Iona was banned. There isn't really a way to play those cards without causing a negative game state.

Additionally, the RC held the view that "Losing the game is not a negative game state", for quite a while, yet, they ban Paradox Engine for generating "wins out of nowhere". All the while, there are tons of single cards that I quoted in my original post that create the huge swings of game-state consistent with "winning out of nowhere", and yet they are legal. I felt this was another inconsistent part of this particular ban.

Viperion wrote:
/also argues that it's not problematic because of the ONE playgroup they play it in.

Are you not seeing the contradiction here?

I only believe that the RC should consider a card's impact on gameplay at all power levels, to be consistent with the way they have handled the banned list for the history of the format. They ban cards because they are consistently negative across all power levels, and do not cater to any specific power level, not 50%, not 100%.

When banning a card, I believe that this sentiment is correct. A card should be a consistently negative experience across all or most power levels, including at the 80-95% where my LGS sits, in order to get banned. Paradox Engine is far from negative at higher-than-moderate power levels, fuels strategies that can keep up with the rest of that meta, and wins games.

I believe that Paradox Engine was banned with the casual-to-moderate meta in mind - as that is where it is most likely misused to create misery rather than win the game. That just doesn't match up with the way they've handled the banned list in the past, which is why I believe that there was at least a partially subjective component to this decision.

If people played cards efficiently and properly then there wouldn't be a problem, because there would be a specific end state in mind, likenhownit got played in cEDH. But the lower you go in the casual spectrum, the more you begin to see people just adding it for value then slowing down every turn because you get an extra spell or three a turn without real focus.

There is an world of difference between casting Doomsday with a specific line and casting a random spell, untapping and retapping mana, casting another, tracking floating mana, drawing a card, and doing it over again until you run out of gas. And the common complaint I hear is that's a bad player problem, but I argue that it's a casual player problem.

As for almost all the other cards you listed, no one adds Winter Orb to their deck without knowing exactly what they're doing. Nobody.


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 Post subject: Re: Arguments against the banning of Paradox Engine
AgePosted: 2019-Jul-24 3:21 am 

Joined: 2012-Oct-24 8:05 pm
Age: Drake
Dee123 wrote:
... the most annoying card to me is cyclonic rift ... people play it as a panic button ... Those players need to learn how to use it productively. The time spent on the learning experience is just frustrating, and I am not sure it is even worth the effort. I think I am the only person in our group that will just not overload it to not waste time but try to get a good enough advantage.

Sometimes a defensive Rift is just the right (or only) play. It's such a powerful card because it's so flexible, not because it necessarily wins the game. If you just want to prevent blocking so you can swing for lethal or make it harder to interact so you can combo, there are cards that do those things for much less mana. It's not actually torture to spend a couple turns rebuilding your board state.


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