Magic has many buzzwords that are bandied about by players the world over. Words that form part of a dictionary steeped with a rich and illustrious past of keywords, cardnames, notable decks, local-slang-turned-global and sometimes even the odd I-don’t-know-what-the-hell that means. We use them with no thought to their origins — “Mill you for 4″ sounds just as natural as “Shock your bear” or “I can’t come out tonight, I’m pretending to be a Wizard with a group of other 20- and 30-somethings”.
One such effect, named after its eponymous antihero of a card, is tutoring.
Nowadays, the poor old Demonic Tutor mostly just spends his time putting fear into the hearts of power cube opponents, or wishing he was even a tenth as valuable as the cards he tutors up in Vintage. But that’s not to say he hasn’t his impact on the game. The card gave its name to an effect for a reason – it set the baseline of what was just too powerful an effect in Magic, and since then R&D have been trying to fix it.
At first they decided to try limiting the type of cards you could find, or making it slightly more difficult to actually get hold of the cards. They didn’t pay too much attention to the manacost though, and so these cards didn’t go down so well in the quest to make Magic more fair.
Another route they took in their quest to make tutoring both playable and fair was to increase the cost of the cards but keep the effect just as powerful. Sadly, it seemed the power of the effect was in indeed in the fact that it cost so little. Although Demonic tutor’s more expensive cousins saw occasional fringe play, they never really made a splash in the fast-paced and tempo-oriented realms of constructed Magic.
The third route was to keep the original effect (find anything) and the original edging-on-broken manacost, but introduce enough drawbacks that the cards is only playable in certain circumstances. If the desired effect was to force these cards into constructed play, then mission accomplished. However, the combination of powerful effect and restrictive drawback limited the use of these cards to a very niche subset of degenerate combo decks – not the kind of versatile build-around-me card WotC would like to see printed.
The benefit of making mistakes is that you can learn from them, and at some point they found a good compromise. A card that was cheap enough to play in competitive constructed decks, and with an effect that’s powerful enough in the right deck, but not so powerful that it makes you build your entire game plan around it. A card that fits into an already-established archetype without breaking it wide open, whilst still holding potential to be played with other cards in other decks. A card kinda like this one:
And there you have it – Sylvan Scrying will be making its return to Standard in a few weeks’ time. This was the first card designed by Aaron Forsythe, made as a way of improving Tron decks. Maybe we’ll be seeing a return of the Tron lands, or maybe some kind of new Cloudpost? Or will we be building decks around the new enemy-coloured dual Manlands? Time will tell for sure, but believe us when we say this podcast is excited to find out.
To hear our thoughts on it, you can listen to the latest episode here: