Insider: The Casual Mindset – More Card Analysis

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A while ago, I asked the forums for cards to discuss in my articles. In addition to the alternate win condition cards I analyzed in the last article in this series, Getting There Games also suggested a number of other cards to look at. Today I will be giving you my thoughts on these cards from a casual perspective.

As a reminder, this is how I analyze casual cards as described in my first article in this series:

  • WOW! Factor – How much potential does this card have? Can you create a crazy board position with it? Will opponents be impressed when you manage to resolve this? Does it lead to memorable stories?
  • Playability – Contrary to popular belief, the casual player does care about things like mana cost—they will, however, be more willing to see steeper costs as a challenge rather than an impossibility. Can a card’s drawback be (easily) overcome?
  • Scalability – Casual players will often find themselves in multiplayer games. They know Swords to Plowshares is a good card, but they also know that Wrath of God is much better at dealing with threats from multiple players.
  • Personal Taste – Some players like to build pillow forts, others want to attack with the most impressive creature they can, and yet others go for the biggest army they can muster—a friend of mine will play anything just as long as it’s mono-white. How does this card compare to the taste of this particular player?

Alright, let's get at it!

WOW! Factor – Frost Titan is big and can lock down anything! It is, however, not all that special when you take a closer look and compare it to other things you could be getting at six mana (Consecrated Sphinx springs to mind).
Playability – Six mana is not cheap, but most casual games will reach this point. The point at which you can cast Frost Titan is probably when something has come out that you want to keep locked down.
Scalability – He protects himself just as well in larger games as in one-on-one. On the other hand, larger games will likely have more things you would want to lock down, but you still only get a single trigger. Finally, it's likely that someone can be attacked safely (perhaps by promising that they can choose what to lock down). On the whole, scalability could be better. It's certainly better with fewer opponents, but at least there is some scaling.
Personal Taste – I'm not sure who is going to like this Titan: he does a lot of things reasonably well, but he's just not exciting.

Basically, Frost Titan is challenged in the PR department. All his abilities look decent and his size is decent for the mana, but he just doesn't stand out. To speak to casual players, he absolutely needs to stand out, so the ones most likely interested are those without cards that stand out more. This would be players with fairly small collections and those wouldn't be likely to spend money on him. Therefore, as a speculation target, Frost Titan is lacking.

WOW! Factor – Sun Titan is big and recurring things is so much fun! White has a few ways to recast him too, while also conveniently providing quite a few interesting cards to recur.
Playability – Six mana is not cheap, but most casual games will reach this point. White has some way of searching for lands, and you'll want things to have been put into you graveyard anyway, so likely you'll want to play Sun Titan later for the best results.
Scalability – Like Frost Titan, Sun Titan still only gets a single trigger in multiplayer. However, in this case, the trigger is basically as good as whatever he could recur, which could be scalable.
Personal Taste – Some people just love recursion, myself included. There aren't too many ways to put things in play from the graveyard that are easy to repeat.

To me, Sun Titan is a much more interesting card than its blue brother. Its price is higher despite having been printed 50 percent more often, and I believe that if Wizards stopped printing it, we would start seeing a gradual, but consistent, rise. If you believe that this won't quickly be reprinted again, it's a good place to park some money.

WOW! Factor – Through the roof for Rite of Replication. You know that one crazy creature John has in play? I now have five copies. This nearly always does crazy stuff, whether it's copying Eternal Witness for the recursion or Artisan of Kozilek for a near unstoppable force. The casual player will definitely focus on what it could do kicked.
Playability – Normally it's a Clone, which is not half bad. It does get quite expensive at nine mana when you include the kicker cost, which should be a concern, as reaching that point is a challenge even in casual games. This card is worth building around, though, so playing it in decks with acceleration is not uncommon. Control decks may even reach nine mana naturally and play it as a late-game win condition.
Scalability – This scales decently well for multiplayer in the sense that more players means a better chance of a juicy target. You don't get more copies with more players and more people will be trying to deal with whatever you created, though, so it does leave something to be desired.
Personal Taste – Many people like to make tokens, they especially like to make strong tokens. This is a pretty big subsection of all casual players.

Rite of Replication has very obvious potential. Everybody can understand that getting five strong creatures for nine mana is a good deal, and even when not playing it kicked, the card is pretty decent. It's another card Wizards likes to reprint, and I believe it would see a gradual rise if only they stopped reprinting. I'm just not sure I believe they will stop reprinting it.

WOW! Factor – Venser, Shaper Savant is capable of stopping anything, but only temporarily. He's an unimpressive creature otherwise, though people who like recursion may see some potential.
Playability – Four mana is a playable cost in casual games; not cheap, but not expensive to the point of scaring people away (for anything but Tiny Leaders).
Scalability – This does not scale well, as it will still only stop one card unless you can somehow get it into a loop to stop more cards.
Personal Taste – People who like recursion will likely see good uses for Venser. It helps that he could be played as a Commander.

Venser is a bit of a mixed bag. Novice players won't see his strength; experienced players will. He fits particularly well with recursion-happy players like myself. Of course, he has at various times made it to tournament-level decks too, so naturally even after a couple of reprints he's still quite valuable. I believe his price is tied more to competitive play than to casual play. When considering him for casual play only, I believe he would behave similarly to Frost Titan, as he just doesn't stand out enough.

WOW! Factor – Through the roof. With Prophet of Kruphix in play, you basically gain an extra turn on every other player's turn.
Playability – Five mana is feasible, especially in green. It's certainly not cheap, but you'll build around it and make it work.
Scalability – Prophet scales linearly with the number of players in the game. This is about the best result we can expect on this criterion.
Personal Taste – Beyond feeling that the card slows down the game a bit (because its controller keeps "taking turns" on other player's turns), there really isn't much people will dislike about Prophet.

Great card. Too great, perhaps, as it was banned in EDH. EDH play constitutes a large part of casual play, and the ban explains why the card just barely hovers above bulk. I imagine that if it was ever unbanned, it would soar to great heights. However, I don't expect that to happen. On one side, the card is too easily just thrown in a deck, and on the other side it will take over any game in which it is played, even when the deck is not tuned to take advantage of it. I highly doubt that the EDH Rules Committee is going to change their minds on this one. As a result: stay away.

WOW! Factor – Birthing Pod reminds players of Survival of the Fittest. Survival is of course a great card, and Pod looks interesting by extension. The thing is, though, that Pod requires you to jump through a lot more hoops to make it good. People can certainly dream about what Pod can do for them, but they will soon realize that it takes effort in deck construction to get it to work smoothly.
Playability – Pod is fairly cheap for what it does, its activation cost is reasonable considering that you do need to have paid for the sacrificed creature too.
Scalability – Pod doesn't get better with more players, but you may be playing creatures that do. People know it's a strong card, and more people means more removal. On the whole, I would generally expect it to get worse with more players.
Personal Taste – Pod requires that you tune your deck for it. This is right up Johnny's alley. People who like to think about convoluted combos will certainly appreciate thinking about the creature chains you could form with Pod.

Personally, I am the kind of person who likes Pod. Its biggest downside is that it takes a pretty sizable collection to be able to build good chains or, if you're just going to buy what you need, to be aware of many creatures so that you can even come up with them. Basically, Pod is strong, but it's not an easy card to play, so you'll need more advanced players to trade it to. From a casual perspective, I don't expect too much movement because of this challenge.

WOW! Factor – It's common to see creatures being copied; it's less common to see the effect for artifacts. Adding both effects together makes Phyrexian Metamorph pretty special. Special enough for it to have the WOW! Factor, though? No, I don't believe so, as to many it will look like just another Clone.
Playability – At three mana and two life, it's a cheaper Clone; otherwise, it's the same price with extra flexibility. Metamorph certainly looks playable, and in casual there are often good targets to copy around the table.
Scalability – Any Clone gets better with more targets, but the increase in selection quality won't likely outweigh the increase in the number of opponents working against you.
Personal Taste – Flexibility is the key characteristic of Metamorph. People who like cards that can do a lot of different things will like this.

It's hard to get excited about "just another" Clone, and that's the biggest problem here. People who like their decks to be able to deal with anything will probably appreciate such a flexible card, but many would probably prefer to play something that is good by itself. Its current price seems about right, and you'll probably be able to trade them on, just don't expect much of a rise.

WOW! Factor – Getting free mana! It's usually very nice to get something in return for something you want to be doing anyway. It's even better when the effect comes attached to a decent creature and can sometimes be triggered multiple times when you put additional lands into play.
Playability – Lotus Cobra is cheap and will often pay for itself in the same turn or the next.
Scalability – Zero scalability: Cobra does the same thing no matter how many opponents you're playing against (except for corner cases that depend on other cards, like someone else playing a Collective Voyage).
Personal Taste – If you like acceleration, you're bound to like this Cobra. Because of its effect and efficiency as a creature, it could fit most deck archetypes you would expect a casual player to build.

Interestingly, I am not much into acceleration. I would much rather use cards lower on the curve, especially those that remain useful in the late game. Many casual players like to accelerate towards more expensive cards, though. It won't take much to convince them of the usefulness of a Cobra, and even I can see some combo potential and synergy. At about $10, Cobra's biggest problem is that it's priced beyond many casual budgets. I would wait for it to get reprinted, then pick up low-priced copies expecting their price to go back up. In the meantime, I would pick up copies in trade as a safe place to store value

If you'd like me to look at more casual cards, I would be happy to oblige. Let me know in the comments or on the forum.

2 thoughts on “Insider: The Casual Mindset – More Card Analysis

  1. Would have been great to see some number ratings on each metric (something simple like 1-5), as well as a total score heading off the closing blurbs, for quick reference 8)

    1. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Unfortunately it’s not an exact science. If you look at the different cards there are different things they score on. There would likely be 20 different aspects I could rate these cards on and I would still not exactly cover the casual mindset and even if I could do that it might not reflect your local players. I rather explain the most important features per card and what to look out for than give some unreliable exact score.

      I’d rather teach a man to fish basically and to fish in the casual waters you need to rely on gut feeling more than numbers.

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