The Fundamental Rules of Magic, Part 2

This continues on from, which is worth reading first.

Every year, a few cards are printed that are much more powerful than they initially appear. Treasure Cruise, Gurmag Angler, Nahiri the Harbinger – each of these cards was initially dismissed by most players, and then became a major Constructed card.

Two of the three (Cruise, Angler) I correctly identified as Constructed powerhouses early. This is because of my methodology – looking at cards through the prism of several fundamental rules of Magic. Any card that obeys all of these rules is inherently fair, and will not be in the upper echelon of Constructed cards in the larger formats.

Any card that breaks one or more of these rules must be taken seriously, even if it looks terrible. Those cards may simply be too expensive for a format, or the support for them might not yet exist, but they should remain on your radar.

The first two Fundamental Rules of Magic:

1) Cards cannot impact the gamestate unless they have been drawn. This was discussed in Part 1.

2) Players have reliable access to at most X+1 mana on turn X, except for turn 1, where they are limited to 1 mana. Exceeding this limit requires extreme investment of resources.

The Second Rule isn’t as fundamental as the first rule.

In Vintage, it’s not true at all – you have access to various ridiculous mana artifacts from the ridiculously broken Black Lotus, Sol Ring and Mana Crypt, to the slightly less broken (but still ridiculous) original Moxen, and a lot of less powerful cards that still break this rule in half.

Vintage is balanced around the assumption that the Second Rule does not apply, and the presence of Force of Will and Mental Misstep in the format as 4-ofs serves as glue that keeps the format from totally breaking.

However, in the other formats it holds much more true.

Cards that break it – Simian Spirit Guide, Dark Ritual, Summer Bloom – are all cards that allow backbreaking lategame plays or outright game-ending plays to be made earlier in games than is the standard for the format in question.

For that reason, any card that breaks this rule – no matter how terrible it might seem if assessed in a vacuum – must be taken seriously.

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