We’ve seen a couple changes to card templates in Khans of Tarkir. One of them is a clear improvement, but the other is sacrificing form for function. That may not necessarily be bad (this is a complex game, after all), but it’s worth noting when something has to be made uglier to work better.
Let’s start with the clear improvement. Delve’s reminder text used to read like this:
It’s now been shortened and simplified to this:
Cutting 13 words from the reminder text leaves lots of extra room for additional rules and flavor text, which is a total win. This also makes the rules a little more clear: using delve does not reduce a spell’s converted mana cost, but instead pays for a portion of that cost. This has been the oracle text for delve for a little while, and I’m glad to see it make it onto the cards themselves.
The reception to the bulleted lists on the new charms has been generally warm. The new template certainly makes the options clear and simple to understand, but at what cost? Simply put: aesthetics.
While the cards may be functionally easier to comprehend, these bulleted lists look kind of ugly. Of course, you may disagree, as aesthetics vary from person to person. Nonetheless, while I understand the reason for the change, I’m not a fan of the look. I especially hate the dash after “Choose one,” but the editing team didn’t have a lot of choice in that matter. Since the colon has the rules implication that it indicates an activated ability, saying, “Choose one: kill a dude, make some dudes, or strip a card,” was not an available option. Still, seeing a line end in a dash like that just looks awful to me. It wasn’t as eye-catching in the old template:
Like I said, sacrificing form for function is not necessarily bad. This is a sophisticated game, and anything that can be done to help new or casual players understand what’s going on is a positive action by Wizards of the Coast. That said, many of us were initially drawn into the game by the look and feel of the cards themselves, and when those cards start looking like to-do lists, some of that initial excitement may be lost.
It’s always a challenge to balance flavor and gameplay, and generally WOTC does an excellent job. While the changes I’ve discussed today are relatively small, they absolutely contribute to first impressions of players who look at these cards, both experienced and brand new. While the major changes get all the buzz, the minor changes make a big impact too—just in not in ways we always see right away. Have you noticed anything else WOTC has been doing differently with this set?