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Erratas, PXG, and the Future

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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.
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  1. Emmanuel Padilla imported's Avatar
    I'm of the mindset that the transition zone should exist on your opponents turn and your turn. That is one of the hardest things to get new players to grasp when learning the game. When you explain that you can do shenanigans on your opponents turn, they feel like your are cheating. Mark Rosewater talks about this type of thing in his podcast. Cards should work the way people feel like they should. The details of the card should make sure nothing breaks in the process. If it does not, then the card or mechanic should be tweeked until does do what you want while making clear sense to the user. Here the mechanic would be the transition zone. Keeping consistent is much better argument than any I can think of for getting rid of it during your opponents turn.

    To relate it to Magic, its like when we could put combat damage on the stack and sack your creatures that are dying for gain while still killing your opponents creature.
  2. Dr. Blasphemy imported's Avatar
    I actually asked the question to WK about why doesn't the Transit Zone exist during your opponent's turn in the PXG thread. Hopefully, they'll answer it.

    The only thing right now to stop PXG abuse is to have Professor X - Powerful Telepath. You would leech off your opponent's PXG to get your PX out quickly, so then only you can use his PXG unless he wants to pay 2 life per turn. That'll royally screw his team.

    The only way to phase out PXG completely is to incorporate Swarm from DND. Its a better play mechanic, since only you can use it. When I get a chance to make a cross license deck I plan to use Stirge - Epic Beast and get it out quick, so every turn I'm allowed to use 5 dice per turn.
  3. David imported's Avatar
    'Once per turn..'
    You could still be rolling 4 dice turn 1, 6 dice on turn 2, 8 dice on turn 3, and 6 dice on turn 4

    'Once during your turn...'
    You could be rolling 4 dice turn 1, 4 dice turn 2, 6 dice turn 3, 4 dice turn 4, 6 dice turn 5
  4. Tim Scott imported's Avatar
    It's possible they need to ban Professor x, but they need to add more ways to ramp otherwise the competivive environment will flood with aggro. The other option is continuing to print healthy cards for the meta that discourage the use of such a global. If they made a low cost character that makes players take 1 damage per use of global. It would make someone think twice about having a deck so bent on using such a linear strategy. They could even make something like Loki that cancels all card text while active. If they print enough hate then professor x will not be able to exist in every team.
  5. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    PXG's global greatly enriched the game. It isn't a perfect solution but they needed to find a way to make you want to keep your sidekicks in your bag because 70 percent of the "good players" were playing gobby/tsrina/storm/human torch. I don't understand how you think there flexibility in a competitive format than previous teams did when if you wanted to win you played gobby which was a horrible way to lose a game or you played games of 50 minute beast walls or patch avengers which u had to go off your gameplan slightly to beat gobby. I felt bad even playing gobby because it was broken way to win a game based on being a cheap ccg. Now in combined format we have jinxo control, gobby, iceman aggro, spiderbomb, human torch/cyclops control decks, nova/hulk/powerbolt decks, flying sidekicks, and patch avengers. Because of professor x the format is now rich when you combine sets. The problem isn't pxg the problem is wizkids printed to many overpowered cards and going first gives you a huge advantage because of broken cards with no drawbacks like in magic, which you did mention briefly with gobby. Spiderman did need an errata but now it can be dealt with with cards like distraction, lord of the d, and the common paladin from d and d. It also makes you think If someone kills me in 4 turns at least we can play another game instead of playing a game of 50 minute beast wall. If it gets to the point aggro is to strong nerf relentless/distraction not pxg. I think d and d hit the nail on the head as how a good set should be mechanically and I hope wizkids goes more in that direction of making a bunch of cool cards that have hate for other cards. As the problem with pxg it ignored a lot of mechanics of the game in mixed format but having it was a better solution than wizkids banning super rares like gobby.
  6. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    Jinzo does as well 2 life a global!
  7. Jason Wolowicz imported's Avatar
    I think use of pxg is almost annoying now, but when the set first launched it was a much needed mechanic. It was almost impossible to buy Cyclops ILCK until the game was already close to being over. Now you can purchase the die on turn 3 if you try. Some people rely on it too heavily, but I think a limit to maybe once during a turn would help. With hardly any spoilers from Age of Ultron, and only a partial release of DC maybe a solution will be coming soon. The Zatanna cards lets you add dice to prep, and there is a global to draw an extra die from your bag. Maybe a new fad will enter the game with any set and use of pxg will be on the downslide.
  8. Trevor Williamson imported's Avatar
    We're seeing plenty of ramp in other sets that don't rely on the PXG to work. In D&D;, for example, there's a lot of cost mitigation to get stuff out faster, and that's what we're seeing in DC as well. PXG doesn't need to be a thing as much any more, but people continue to use it and abuse it everywhere.
  9. Trevor Williamson imported's Avatar
    I really don't agree of your assessment of the game and the additional sets. The powerful cards like Tsarina and Gobby are mistakes of a game trying to find its legs, but they're also mistakes that have only been exacerbated by PXG. On the whole, I don't believe PXG has really "enriched" the game as much as you suggest, and new sets are demonstrating to us that PXG isn't necessary to play a good game. Most of the problems you cite aren't really problems so much any more, and while there are still some powerful combos out there, those powerful combos aren't being used as consistently or routinely as they may have been. All of these new strategies depend heavily on PXG to function, and if you were to take away that one element, or even reduce it just a little bit, you'd find that it takes a lot of wind out of those teams' sails. The biggest issue I've seen are new team builds meant to try to break the power balance of the game, with combos like Iceman/Ant-Man or the Spider-Bomb growing more out of communities like DiceAnon than anywhere else.

    This, then, isn't so much a problem of the game that I've seen but a problem with the way people approach this game's meta. Competitive games almost always do this, though. There's always going to be that one guy in the corner who does nothing but find a way to get the game to do things that the game never *really* intended to do. Instead of finding a way to limit that guy's combo, though, the game has instead turned to allow everyone to perform the same combo or pull an even more ridiculous combo, and that's what feels so stale. The prevalence of turn-3 kills based around abusing the PXG is outrageous, and we wouldn't have nearly as many problems with things like Iceman or Spider-Bomb if PXG were more limited. And the game wouldn't just go back to the same old Tsarina/Gobby schlock, because even just within Marvel there are new answers to help mitigate that. It might not be the easiest thing to manage, but there are more answers than you suggest.
  10. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    I don't think it is nearly annoying than the 50 minute beast wall war.
  11. Jason Wolowicz imported's Avatar
    I always preferred nova. You could gain on the attack and defense.
  12. Dave imported's Avatar
    It's far more game killing at this point, and there are plenty of ways to deal with a Beast wall.

    Beast was a problem in the first set and then we got tools to deal with it. We have four sets now and there are NO tools for dealing with PXG.

    ALL skill in the game is now centered around how you use a single global. That's a pretty boring way to play an otherwise rich game. It's why I love limited formats, especially now that we don't have to draft UXM.
  13. Dave imported's Avatar
    Jinzo costs 6 to purchase. You won't get him out before you're below half health. And when HP disparity is that large, Jinzo isn't a factor because HP can now be used as a resource for the player who is ahead.
  14. Dave imported's Avatar
    Yeah, and so this minimizes it without making expensive dice out of reach.
  15. Dave imported's Avatar
    Well said Trevor. Took the words out of my mouth.
  16. Tim Scott imported's Avatar
    I think it circles around to the game needed something like PXG, but PXG is speeding the game up too much. I have played just d&d; vs d&d;, and it made me miss having professor x around, or any relevant good characters before a dragon. The d&d; set has some nice little fixes but I pray they develop something similar to professor x that is more fair so we can have similar teams but not at the ungodly unfair speed at which games are ending. I agree about the problem with first player advantage, the game has lots of little problems that I feel will be smoothed out with time. Without ramp and ways to push through damage, turtling becomes a huge issue, the last thing we want is to ban professor x and gobby, and go from turn 4 kills to a kill after a 50 minute stall fest where no one does anything. I think the best way to fix all of this is to reprint the card in another set with a fixed global text of pay mask to move one sidekick to prep, and errata to hot fix the use of the old card.
  17. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    I have been testing with the few people I play with having the first player roll one less dice first turn with 1 generic energy and one die starting in the transit area and my findings is it is a huge improvement. I strongly suggest people try that and see what they think. I agree with you about turtling but I think this game needed overly aggressive teams because by being aggressive and attacking you are at high risk of giving your opponent a ramp advantage over you or dealing with a comes into play effect that you have to keep dealing with.
  18. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  19. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    There has always of dealing with beast wall I was Referring to that being the preferred way to ramp. Before the game was still centered in a large way around the mr fantastic global. There are ways to deal with it you get the 5 cost professor x on your team or jinzo. I also love limited formats but I played way to many games that were stallfests based on who bought more power bolts than the other player.
  20. Christopher Ripp imported's Avatar
    The PXG is not broken nor dose it need errata or banned. Here is why - It provides the same advantage for both players, being as it is a global. If your opponent brings him and you do not, you can still use his ability. If you are not using his ability and your opponent is, then you are making a player error.

    Abusing your opponent global abilities gives you some other advantages also. I don't think i've ever seen professor X ever played, therefore you have 8 buying options compared to your opponents 7. If you don't have PXG and your opponent does, this also means you could be able to skip some of your ramp cards and get to your big beater sooner.

    PXG changes the tempo of the game nothing else.
  21. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    I agree with you 100 % i few pxg more as the dual lands in magic then a flaw with the economy of the game.
  22. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    feel pxg*
  23. Dave imported's Avatar
    It breaks the game. It's too efficient. It doesn't matter that it's availavle to both players - the ENTIRE competitive meta game is wrapped around using PXG. Every legit team needs it to work or needs to disrupt it. When the meta is that dependent on one specific card you have a problem, the exact problem MTG had with Skullclamp.

    It's nothing like a dual land. It's a Black Lotus.
  24. Wiktor Makowski imported's Avatar
    There is a problem with Professor X Global. He is to efficient.
    He not only does ramp, he does it at an 2 for 1 rate. It takes one dice to get two dice, or even later in a game a two mask side of a dice to get four dice. So he is strictly better than any other ramp option. But above that he also keeps your sidekicks out of bag. DM is a deck building game at it's core, and effects that can get rid of low efficient starting resource are immensely powerful.
    Here Professor X once again does this better than any other options. So it gets to the point that other ramp and churn options are unnecessary as you can just slam him in and go.
    We have our Gambit common, and were perfectly fine eith him, as he is a Borderlands Ranger like effect, but with Xavier with have a Skullclamp smashed on a Primeval Titan and that's really bad.
    Now ramp effects should be in game, but on a level of Villains pact, or Resurrection, not on a level of insanity that we have now. I'd say ban is too much he should become once per turn, during you round only, that would put him more in line of other ramp options as an efficient, but limited to sidekicks ramp, with strong churn. With this change we could begin to use him from round 2 but on a more controlled scale, still speeding the game up, but limiting round 3 10+ life swings to these teams that really go over the top to do that, instead of every team that puts any hard hitting 4 drop and well smash.
  25. Joseph Pilarski imported's Avatar
    Nerfing relentless is the solution to stopping 4th turn kill not pxg. If you are constantly dying to it run distraction.
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