Monday, January 28, 2019

Errata

"Errata is bad times, though, as it causes confusing situations for people that play with older versions of cards. And this errata would affect lots of cards."--Aaron Forsythe, Classifying Samite Healers, 7/16/2004




Magic: the Gathering has had an extremely long history with errata, dating back all the way to 1993, when a number of Alpha cards were printed with wrong CMC, power/toughness, and in one case, no way to play it. In the very early days of Magic, it was simple, you played as the card was written. This meant Orcish Oriflamme was strictly better in a situation with an Alpha deck (only Alpha cards could be in with other alpha cards), however the distinctions between designs didn't end there. One of my favorite examples of cards having slightly different wording for different effects is Island Sanctuary.
                           

A simple change in description, one says attacks, the other says damage. The difference being with the alpha one, as printed, you can get away without paying Force of Nature, or spam Orcish Artillery. In 94, they started down the long road of errata, which led to things like Raging River being an Enchant World, Cyclone having Cumulative Upkeep, and the back and forth ice hockey game that was 'text on Time Vault'.

One of the most errata'd cards ever to exist.
 Luckily, WotC has largely stopped attempting errata, unless it's something BIG (like the grand creature type update). However, I'm not here to talk about the errata of WotC and it's history, instead, I'm here to talk about well, this:


When those peppers are extra spicy
The poster child for the format itself, Chaos Orb is honestly probably one of the most famous cards in the game. It's effect itself is something of myth and legend, and its notoriety is just as famous. It even got a homage in Unglued, to the long told story that someone once tore one up in a tournament.



It's current text


However, as printed, the card is more than broken. Someone who's been flicking the card for almost 30 years can wipe out several cards with the precision of a laser. It quickly became the idea to 'fix it', with a fan agreed errata, and it became literally universally recognized




Outside of literally one detractor I know, almost all players agree on this line of text. It's easy to understand, it's still within the spirit of the card, and the only down side is, it can't possibly backfire by hitting your cards (it can however miss, which some would say is a backfire itself).



While debates on the rules were actually common (as would be, in a regional based format), all players recognized this as the only errata, until Fallen Star. Fallen Star currently has another strange errata, this time, you choose a number of creatures and put them into a pile, or a row, and drop the card. Again, it loses the chance to backfire on you, as well, the rest of the card functions as intended. However, being a dexterity card, I love the fact it's almost playable now online. I do agree with that text for online play.

Now there is something I like to call errata creep. As few of you know, I also play a game called YuGiOh (or did) and I keep an eye on it from time to time. As said at the beginning of the article, errata can often be detrimental for certain cards, and for people rejoining the game. It also can in turn, come into making a card even more powerful than before.

YuGiOh is one of my favorite examples of wanton errata, because card names are just as important the the function of the card as everything else. Which in turns, either creates renaming of cards (some of which are classics), or the text (x isn't a y card). This doesn't even delve into the mess that is the TCG vs the OCG, or how Europe occasionally doesn't errata cards when the USA does.

So why am I bringing up YGO in an MtG conversation? Well recently several USA play group's have decided to add errata to the infamous 'bands with others' lands. The bands with Others lands are notorious for their lack of mana abilities with the fact they have one function to form legends into bands.

When legends was released, it had a very thick D&D theme to it, and these 5 locations were stereotypes of places a D&D party might meet. They didn't tap for mana, since it was felt banding was that useful of an ability, and the flavor that these locations sh
ouldn't be mana rich enough.

Stangg always discusses a tactic with his twin over a cold one before going into combat.
Recently, I discovered that the brave Knights of the TAPlar have been playing with an errata that they can tap for mana of their respective color for over a year now. The Atlantic playgroup has suggested the same thing, but making them legendary, which adds an additional issue with that mechanic.

Yes, I know she's a throw away legend, and I know she's not going to see much play, but she's there. She has legendary landwalk, it's a legitimate issue changing the actual type of these cards. It's also one I guarantee wouldn't be noticed until someone pointed it out.


I'm not saying I don't understand the desire to make them better, but where does that stop? There is literally no reason to not run this outside blood moon as it is now. I understand you wish they were better, we all do, but when does that stop. How long until Safe Haven and Island of Wak-Wak tap for a blue? How long until Mana Birds have 1 toughness to make it more efficient? Hell why stop their, turning Mind Twist into Mind Shatter will make it fair. How about a 4/4 Hill Giant? We already have manaburnless Su-Chi in half the world? Can I get Camouflage to work as printed instead of the garbled mess it is on Gatherer? I'm just saying, errata is a slippery slope, and if not kept under control, and only to the absolute most necessary, Old School will soon lose it's identity, and will be unrecognizable from it's current self.


10 comments:

  1. Agreed that errata is a slippery slope. It's just a damn shame those beautiful lands are useless. I think Pestilence Rats should get the "You may have any number of Pestilence Rats in your deck." errata. That's my .02!

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    1. Someone else suggested it. That one is at least interesting.

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  2. We used to call this a slippery slope fallacy, but it seems that people are even excited that the fallacy is being made. Moreover, since this sort of thing is region-specific or even store-specific, it's even harder to see how the supposedly bad outcome is likely to follow.

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    1. While I usually try to stay away from politics with this blog (and done so successfully) I can vouche the slippery slope isn't a fallacy, but practically fact.

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    2. To address what's implicit: one instance in which most people's expectations were upended doesn't make this any less of a fallacy...



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    3. I guess the question must be asked, when does something stop becoming a fallacy, and who determines what is a fallacy to begin with?

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