• Erratas, PXG, and the Future

    The recent errata of Spider-Man: Wall Crawler was a good step. It eliminated the potential for a high probability turn three kill, though of course those are still possible. It was, however, nothing but a step. There is still more work to be done, and that is because of the Professor X Global.

    Effective use of PXG is incredibly important in the current format and while it does allow you to accelerate your buys, it does not actually allow for much more flexibility in a competitive format than previous teams did. This is because it generally makes four cost characters the most viable, and the six or sevens still sit on the side. There might be slightly more variety, but they're simply variations on a theme rather than something wholly new.

    PXG isn't an issue because it accelerates your buys. It's that it allows you to control with a high degree of certainty which dice you will be able to roll.

    So why is that a problem?

    The intent of the dice bag mechanism is to implement a blind draw, some randomness akin to the shuffled deck of Magic: The Gathering. Professor X makes the blind draw irrelevant because - used correctly - it enables you to regularly roll all or nearly all of your dice in a single turn.

    The other problem is that it's too efficient - we're paying one energy now for two later. It's extreme. What if there was an ability that said "1 energy: Draw two additional dice your next clear and draw step"? Clearly that's too powerful. I could use it three times and draw ten dice!

    Professor X does the same thing, he just does it through a backdoor. Of course PXG only works with sidekicks, but by taking them out of rotation, it also accelerates named dice.

    Worse, this global will always be with us, right up until UXM is retired out of a "standard" format (which WizKids is nowhere close to doing) because they can't possibly print anything faster than it without breaking the game.

    Are there ways to mess with it? Sure. Prismatic Spray from D&D; eliminates the text of the global during your turn. That's a one-turn reprieve, though, and this card demands a stronger solution than that. Indeed, it's a problem because it's too efficient. Match up a 1-2 cost turn one buy with a 4-5 cost turn two buy and heavy use of efficiency globals and you're set for a strong turn three and/or four.

    Indeed, even without Wall-Crawler, PXG enables a player to drop a player's health by 10+ before a true response is possible.

    Yes, one cost thanks to "Delve."
    This isn't a unique situation.

    Back in January, Wizards of the Coast banned two cards from the modern format of Magic - Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time - and restricted them in legacy, because they gave you alotof efficiency in the form of card advantage for a cost of as little as one or two. That's a lot of bang for your buck and they were right to recognize the problem.

    Years ago, in the Mirrodin block, Skullclamp was banned. It enabled a ridiculous amount of card advantage for an incredibly low price. Wizards recognized that the meta was either to use Skullclamp, or play to beat Skullclamp and rightfully banned the card. It was too cheap, too efficient, and provided pure raw card advantage. The format was completely wrapped around that card. If you didn't care to use it, you weren't playing the same level as everyone else was.

    In 2011, Martin Wallace released a deckbuilding war game called "A Few Acres of Snow," which pitted the British against the French. It garnered much initial acclaim but quickly found controversy because of a British strategy known as the "Halifax Hammer," which involved thinning your deck as much as possible in order to guarantee specific cards at specific times. In this way, the British player was able to always be more efficient than their opponent and win.

    In all cases, the designers involved misjudged the ways that players would utilize the increased efficiency offered by the mechanisms in question.

    So why does PXG demand an answer?

    There are three reasons here. Tell me if these sound familiar:

    1. In the current meta, you must either use or disrupt PXG. If you aren't either using it or planning for it, you will lose.
    2. Correct use of the global allows players to ignore specific game mechanisms completely, reducing all skill in the game to the correct use of one specific global.
    3. PXG gives you energy at a 2:1 rate of return, and no other game effect allows this to happen. Everything else is 1:1, whether you're paying a bolt and KOing a character to use NOGG or Blue Eyes White Dragon or paying for the global on Resurrection. It's a crazy amount of efficiency for a very low cost.
    Players of deckbuilding games like Dominion have known for years about the importance of thinning your deck, and PXG gives use that chance. It's the mistake that Martin Wallace made with A Few Acres of Snow.These are the same kind of reasons that Wizards ended up banning the above cards.

    But I have good news...

    We don't need to ban anything.

    We just need to change how it works. A means to buy a lot of stuff, or affording an expensive die, is good! It's the curation of your dice bag that's a problem. It's cool to find a way to buy a five or six cost die very early, so let's maintain that, not get rid of it entirely. What we want to do is eliminate the part where, through use of this engine, players are at half health or worse before they have the opportunity to respond.

    We also don't want to just ban it, because the lack of PXG is a return to Gobby, which is still too fast. I mean, you couldban both, but I digress.

    Some potential fixes for PXG, either by errata or by rules modification:

    [u][*]Increase the cost or decrease the dice it can grab. Make it cost two masks, or make it only grab a single die. Then it's an energy bank - one now for one later - rather than an instant "double your money back" proposition.[*]Expand the transit zone. If PXG couldn't grab the dice that paid for prior uses of PXG during an opponent's turn, it would still enable efficiency without insanity.[*]Limit the use of PXG to once per turn.[*]Change the wording to "Once during your turn," as with Surfer and Resurrection. This limits the die grabbing to certain somewhat more specific occasions.[*]Add "Do not roll these dice on your next turn" to the ability. There's a precedent for that in the game now.[/list]

    I would prefer a ruling that impacts just the card rather than expand the transit zone. At present, Professor X is the only card that exploits the lack of transit zone on your off-turn. Why expand something for all time just to impact a single global ability? That being said, expansion of transit would prevent such abuse by future cards. I'm open to any of these.

    "...But in the end, there it is."

    There is a strong case against this card - the fact that it breaks mechanisms within the game in the ignoring of the variance provided by blind, random draws, the fact that it enables such careful curation of your pool that you can destroy a player before they have the chance to respond. The out-of-game case is strong too, as we see other games where cards and combos that were too efficient forced people to either address it (as in the case of Magic: The Gathering or abandon it (as in the case of A Few Acres of Snow, which Martin Wallace ultimately couldn't fix).

    In the end, we have an ability that has created an environment where one either must deal with it or must use it - and it can't be killed without some awful power creep. That alone is argument enough to change it.
    This article was originally published in blog: Erratas, PXG, and the Future started by Dave