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CardName: Stacks Phantom Cost: {1}{U} Type: Creature - Spirit Pow/Tgh: 0/3 Rules Text: Defender, flying Whenever Stacks Phantom blocks, fateseal 1. Flavour Text: All Telosians are lost, whether it be in the labyrinth of the bookcases, or in the inscrutability of their texts. Set/Rarity: LibraryPlane Common

Stacks Phantom
Creature – Spirit
Defender, flying
Whenever Stacks Phantom blocks, fateseal 1.
All Telosians are lost, whether it be in the labyrinth of the bookcases, or in the inscrutability of their texts.
Updated on 1 Sep 2011 by Putnam

Code: CU03

History: [-]

2011-04-13 00:41:49: Putnam created the card Stacks Phantom
2011-04-13 00:51:32: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom:

The original flavour text was seven lines long, so I shortened it.

2011-04-13 00:52:55: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom:

Got the flavour text down to six lines, still too long.

One of Zeno's paradoxes conceived of time as a series of discrete moments (having already decided that time as a continuous series amounts to gibberish). So he imagines Achilles firing an arrow, and freezes that arrow in a discrete moment while it's in flight. He claims that the arrow cannot be in motion because during that discrete moment it is neither moving to where it is (it is already there), nor is it moving to where it isn't (since that's the domain of the next discrete moment).

The Atomism I'm building for Blue in this set largely revolves around discrete entities that are causally independent; they have no contact with other objects (I'm thinking of Leibniz' Occasionlist Monadology). So I figured the paradoxical idea of time described in Zeno's arrow thought experiment would fit. But how to concept that into a card?

Well I tried my best, but it looks as though my best is pretty limp-wristed. The discrete moment pops in and out of existence instantaneously, so... flash! During that instant it is motionless, so... defender! Also, it is completely causally independent, not some inert hanging particle, so... high toughness! I considered having it leave play at EoT, but that would rob it of its crazy-metaphysics vibe.

2011-04-13 01:28:29: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom:

added card code

It's a nice tweak on Horned Turtle. Probably a very effective common for slowing games down. And the connection to the philosophical concept is... a fun attempt, at least :)

I'll probably hang on to the card and lose the flavour once I've developed my 'library-plane' concept (rename it 'library guard'; something dull and safe).

New Phyrexia has Deceiver Exarch, which is basically this but without defender and with a modal-ized twiddle attached. And it looks like Deceiver Exarch might see standard play alongside splinter twin. So I figure that in a few months this card will just read as a more boring version of the exarch. Unless I can find some new flavour for it that I really like, I intend on cutting this card.

You could add an activated return to hand ability to represent it no longer being where it was during the next discreet moment???

Yeah, that's the kind of thing the card concept requires. But this kind of top-down design is useless if it won't resonate with anyone. I think the only course of action is to ditch it and come up with something new. But then I haven't made much progress thinking up a replacement. It's tough to work flash into a blue creature, especially one that doesn't have flying.

Given a couple of years, we'll forget that Deceiver Exarch exists, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. If it really bugs you, though, why not make it a 0/5 or 0/6? A few more Flash cards that have a purpose, but don't blow out the opponent can always be usefull.

Also, to represent the fact that the card is a split moment in time, you'd think that the creature wouldn't be able to attack or block, but I can't construct how this would be a usable card without giving it some other ability. Maybe when it enters the battlefield, target creature is blocked, then it leaves the battlefield? That seems kind of funny to me, but costs less than {u}...

I was overreacting when I left that comment about Deceiver Exarch. Really I just wanted to whine about it. Why does it get flash? Is deception flashy? Felt like it was unnecessarily cramping Atemporal Near-Things style, what little of it there is.

I like your 'target creature is blocked' suggestion, jmgariepy, but it's better suited for another card. There's not really anything to like about this card. Bad name, bad flavour text. Everything about it must go! But I appreciate the help all the same.

2011-08-20 04:01:50: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom

Finally, I've replaced atemporal near-thing with this variant of pride guardian. Also, I've decided that I'm going to try fateseal in this set. It seems to me that scry is a better mechanic overall, but I'm going to try fateseal first since I like the flavour better.

2011-08-20 04:04:59: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom
2011-08-21 03:35:59: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom:

added flying in order to up the number of blue flyers

2011-09-01 00:11:39: Putnam edited Stacks Phantom

Well, I phoned this picture in. I even broke the rule stating that only one creature may be depicted unless the card itself describes a group. Maybe it's time to take a break from the drawings and get back to card design.

I'd like to store my initial impressions of Innistrad here, since I'll probably get a kick out of reading my first thoughts a few months after it's released. The most remarkable thing is that Innistrad and LibraryPlane have something in common: both of them are thematically defined by the name of one of the game zones. Innistrad is all about the graveyard, and LibraryPlane is all about the library (or at any rate, it should have been, but I got distracted by the whole philosophy thing).

On the surface, basing a set on a game zone seems silly. This is because it really just comes down to a kind of pun or equivocation. For instance, if you were making a hand-matters set, you wouldn't design a tribe of animated hands for it. Of course, the part of the game with which you're concerned is called the 'hand', but that's just an operational term introduced to flesh out the language of the rules. It doesn't have much to do with actual hands.

So, isn't it the same with the graveyard and library? Taken in a vacuum, sure. We don't want to imply that after you doom blade my serra angel, I gather up her mangled corpse and dig a grave for her in my own personal graveyard. Nor do we want to imply that every turn I visit my personal library to select the day's reading ("I believe I'll read a chapter from lightning bolt today"). We might just as easily have called the graveyard the 'spell out' and the library the 'spell in.'

But as it turns out, Magic flavour is quite a lot more complicated than that. Spells that interact with the graveyard typically are graveyard-themed (though there are a lot of exceptions), so that, over time, when I consider the role the graveyard plays in the game, I cannot meaningfully disentangle the rules from the flavour. The case for this isn't quite so strong for the library, but this is likely because there are far fewer cards that treat the library as an actual library (there are the tutors, archive trap, etc., but it's not like primeval titan is storming through your library to find the deeds you've stored away entitling you to a couple mountains).

Mark Rosewater's article introducing Innistrad described Odyssey as a set where the flavour failed to synchronize with the mechanics (I'd like to register that I can't look at that picture of Richard Garfield without seeing F. Murray Abraham). LibraryPlane has an equal and opposite problem: I have the flavour in place, but the mechanics aren't really living up to it. My silly metaphysic mechanic is library-indifferent. Oh well.

It's also possible that the flavour of LibraryPlane isn't even right for a library-oriented set despite the fact that it all takes place in and around a giant library. I don't have archivists in my library. Instead I have an awkward story that explores philosophical themes. Shouldn't a library-oriented set have archivists?

I wonder how explicit a set needs to be about its themes. Rosewater requires that the themes show up at common, and I think I've managed that. But Innistrad goes further. It's graveyard (or at least 'horror') flavour is everywhere.

A lot of people are responding positively to Innistrad's flavour excesses. Not me! I'm worried that Innistrad is so committed to hitting all the 'horror' tropes that it can't say anything interesting. Certainly it's very good at satisfying the stereotypes, but a set needs a soul, and stereotypes only get in the way. Add that to the fact that Innistrad doesn't seem to be about gothic horror itself, but rather about a kind of Hollywood recasting of Gothic Horror (I'm thinking of the all-surface-no-depth campiness of Scorcese's Dracula, and, even more so, Burton's Sleepy Hollow; these films were popular though, so maybe Wizards knows what it's doing). I actually like Gothic Horror to the extent that it continues with a few ideas implied by Coleridge and other Romanticists (there's a chance that Coleridge derived these ideas from his reading of Kant, and Kant's philosophy is the basis for LibraryPlane!).

One might counter that I'm making too much about one literary genre, that Innistrad is about horror understood generally. But it clearly isn't! Its 'monsters' are at the very least derived (albeit remotely) from Mary Shelley and her friends. We're not here dealing with horror generally, since if that were the case Euripides' Bacchae and Heart of Darkness would be just as relevant as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

And what's most infuriating about the Hollywood recasting of Gothic Horror is that it misunderstands its source material. Rosewater himself thinks that the notion of Good against Evil is central to Gothic Horror. But Gothic Horror, where it did not make an effort to be religiously and morally ambivalent, typically undermined any simplistic morality of good against evil. That's not to say that Christian morality isn't all over Gothic Horror, but the genre was interested in exploring the conflict between this morality and the hegemony of the scientific method over the natural world. Frankenstein's monster is disturbing because he does not fit comfortably in the Christian moral dichotomy: he's an in-between (incidentally, Rosewater is right to emphasize transformation for this reason, though I'm not sure he understands it completely. The significance of transformation isn't so much the Y in 'X becomes Y' [man becomes werewolf], but rather the 'becomes' (the werewolf itself isn't scary, it's the idea that it's a man-wolf, a hyphen, a challenge to our idea of humanity. But the way Transform works, the in-between is lost in a binary). Likewise, Milton's (sympathetic?) depiction of Satan in Paradise Lost undermines good-against-evil-morality, and this theme is picked up throughout Romantic literature onto Shelley and friends.

That's my initial impression of Innistrad qua flavour. We'll see where I am in a few months; hopefully my feelings will have changed. As to the mechanics, they didn't affect me in a significant way. Ability words are usually pretty dry, and morbid isn't an exception. I am confused as to why it only works when the morbid creature ETB (it can't just be for the sake of french vanilla simplicity). If you're morbid, shouldn't you get off on each death, whether you showed up this turn or not? Maybe if it worked on every turn I'd be more excited about it (at least landfall promised a big change to gameplay).

Curses have clumsy flavour too since I'll often want to curse creatures. An enchant player theme sounds fine, though, provided it's small. Fight solves a problem for Green (but then the only one I've seen requires Red), but once again they chose the wrong word. It's not very evocative (when Mr. and Mrs. Putnam fight about who's turn it is to do the dishes, do we do damage to one another equal to our power?). Someone mentioned 'duel' as a better word, and I'm inclined to agree (and duel IS green, animals spar for pack supremacy all the time).

Flashback is good design space, but it's about as flavourful as cycling. It's one of those instances where graveyard interaction is not graveyard flavoured). That said, I imagine I'll like a lot of the new flashback cards.

A lot has been said about double-faced cards, and a lot has been said about what's been said (with a lot of unreason on both sides, notably straw mans, fallacious appeals to authority, arguments from ignorance, and a misunderstanding of the principle of consumer choice [I think one poster managed to fit all of these in a single post!]). But it hasn't really affected me at all. I guess that bodes badly for Innistrad given that DFCs are the set's poster mechanic.

The one complaint against DFCs that does resonate with me is that it's a gimmick, that it's all surface and has no emotional center. But then, that was already my impression given the set's flavour. There is one benefit to DFCs that I haven't seen mentioned: they allow designers to fit more text on a card without making a mess (that is, without making the text box a mess; the rest of the card is another matter). Limits on text are often a good thing (they're something I struggle with, but it's a good kind of struggle). Nonetheless, sometimes a card just needs a lot of room to say something that's worth saying. I can't argue that this single benefit is worth all the hassle it comes with, but then gimmicks aren't meant to succeed in cost-benefit analyses anyway.

One of the reasons I'm documenting my thoughts so extensively is that I'm concerned that I don't evaluate new sets properly. For one, most people are much more excited about Innistrad's flavour than I am. I have explained why I disagree, but I still can't help but feel that I'm missing something. Second, I'm not going to grow as a designer if I can't learn from what Wizards is doing. Certainly, Wizards does make mistakes, and DFCs might be one, but by and large they make good sets (right?), and if all I can do is complain about them, it must be that I'm missing out on some valuable lessons.

One edit to my post on Innistrad: the reason I believed morbid only triggered as an ETB was because the first morbid card spoiled only triggered that way. I guess I should actually read the rules.

And one thing to add. The new garruk has a non-loyalty ability. Now that that's allowed, maybe planeswalker design will be interesting enough to be worth trying? If only they didn't require investing in a meta-narrative.

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