The Master of the Myths' Myth
"- cartes trop puissantes qui déséquilibrent le jeu : cartes à énumérer
* Khopesh of the Abyss, Manifested Malice (The Shifting Sands F16)
* Initiate of Huang Hun (Curse of the Jade Emperor F40)
* Master of the Myths (Into Tartarus F101)"
"And yes, I have to think that Master of the Myths is headed for the restricted list. Not sure what FFG was thinking putting yet another cheap (effectively) colorless blocker into the game - it's Guardian Pillar meets the Descendant of Eibon, only with more Arcane icons, *sigh*. The other "put into play" cards are relatively balanced because they need specific triggering effects - Master of the Myths is broken because all it requires is one colorless resource. I think we're going to see it everywhere until the restricted hammer comes down."
"edit: i guess there is just (limit once per turn) missing and i got carried away, i still cant live down
Khopesh of the Abyss TSS and
Master of the Myths IT"
Some occurrencies are clockwork like in their repetition. Six months ago the outcries against Khopesh of the Abyss reached the peak point, with multiple calls for bannings, restriction and nerfing. My friend and teacher Graham Hill posted and interesting (and quite compelling) argument on the impact of Khopesh on the game (very little if any) and on the metagame (it did actually shift a lot of choices), which you can read here. Now, six month later, I am seeing a similar level of outcry over Master of the Myths.
So in this post I am attempting to evaluate if Master of the Myths power level is so far out there that it needs restriction and if the card is broken to the point it needs nerfing or banning. I have very little chances of making it scientific, as it would require an amount of games much bigger than the one I am exposed to, but rest assured I will reference anedoctal evidence and avoid "theory cthulhu".
Is Master of the Myths being played?
First and foremost it would be interesting to see if Master of Myths is seeing play time on the tables; Khopesh, as an example, while being heralded as bad for the game, gamebreaking, and an absolute must play, was surprisingly lacking from regional winning decks (I think it was featured only in Italy and Germany, although I am dubious on the latter).
Out of all the regionals where data is available (or deducible) Master of Myths was played in winning decks in these regionals:
Italy and Portland.
Of course there are strong hints toward it having been played in more decks than these (I *strongly* suspect France and Germany), it wasn't used in Australia and Jenkintown while Ohio and FFG Game Center have no data.
So the breakdown of Master of the Myths use among winning decks would be:
2 used it;
2 almost certainly used it;
2 didn't use it;
2 no data.
In other words 25% of the players who won tourneys felt that Master of the Myths wasn't worth the space on their decks. If we cut out no datas from the "survey", we get a 66% of use. Not a low percentage by any means, but apparently there *are* reasons to not add it to your deck.
Is Master of the Myths broken?
I will borrow Graham definition of broken here: "Cards that win games by simply being on the table (If I have it and you don't - I automatically win, immediately or inevitably) , and thus require specific consideration in any deck build. In essence, you must play this card or lose. Mechanically this means the the board configuration will now permanently slant toward the player who played the card."
Honestly, having played in an era where cards like The Rip Off were flung around without any remorse, my gut reaction would be to just file it under the "-Expletive-, Not Broken at all!" category and move on, but let's analyze.
What does Master of the Myths do?
Master of the Myths is a pretty simple card: at action speed, for the cost of 1, it adds an ephemeral 3 cost willpower tough+1 skill 3 AAA character on the board for you to peruse. So far the most common use I have seen touted is popping it after opponent commits to jam into stories, getting wounded and denying unopposed (and sometimes making the attacker lose the skill check too).
While a "surprise" play of Master of the Myths in defense may look like a big swing, in fact its sudden appearance on the field and following commitment has a negligible effect on board position: Master of the Myths won't wound nor make any char go insane, it just might prevent a char to ready (if that char had Arcane icons in the first place) and either deny an unopposed token or grab one instance of direct removal. In the first case it just delays the opponent victory (and delaying the inevitable isn't the best strategy to gain board position), in the second case it trades 1-1 for a generic removal. Repeated activations of Master of the Myths raise the pressure on the other domains, as one is caught in the Master of the Myths routine. Along with this there are a few cards which will directly punish the player which activates Master of the Myths or make it's activation useless.
Can Master of the Myths be dealt with on a deck vs card basis? Are there decks against with Master of the Myths is meaningless?
I will not elaborate on this much, but I believe most decks are Master of the Myths transparent, i.e. the presence or absence of an opposed Master of the Myths is pretty much meaningless in a deck strategy economy. The closest comparison would be Long-Dead Prince. While I have no qualms on admitting Master of the Myths is much more efficient, it is still not a card you deckbuild against or take special countermeasures. Terror of the Tides is another similar (albeit much more steeply priced) card. Again, not a card you deckbuild against.
Let's take a few sample decks. If you play a rush, you can expect a few story runs to be opposed or disrupted by ephemerals and frankly I'd rather have my character place no tokens than being destroyed by some random shooting. If you play a removal deck (not that I suggest it, as it is a weak archetype, but your deck, your call), Master of the Myths is just another character, incidentally just the type of card your deck was built to remove; combo decks like the Jenkinton winner are non interactive with characters and as such Master of the Myths is not of special concern.
Does Master of the Myths fit in every deck?
Yes and no. I use Master of the Myths in many decks, but there are a few where its use has to be weighted a lot. As an anedocte I avoid using more than 4 out of 50 neutral out of faction cards in bi-faction rushes, as it creates resource mismatches which delay the deck clock by about 1 turn; so if I happen to have a neutral card which fits more the deck strategy then Master, the Master goes.
Another example: there are many cards which "fit every deck" (The Mage Known As Magnus, Alaskan Sledge Dog, Mentor to Vaughn), which are not in the restricted list. I'll leave to every reader to make up his mind on why it is that but as a truism, a card popularity is not a direct gauge of its power, just the influence the card has in the perceived meta (As an example Alaskan Sledge Dogs were absolute dominators of Worlds '09 and '10, where they outshined Descendant of Eibon in performance; the inclusion of Statue of R'yleh, Negotium Perambulans in Tenebris and other percieved anti-rush cards made the presence of Dogs in winning deck plummet to zero in Worlds '11).
While this discussion has, as premised, little scientific value (it is based on a number of cases best described as anedoctal), I think I can draw two conclusions from it.
1- Not every deck plays Master of the Myths, nor every deck absolutely benefits from it;
2- Master of the Myths is hardly what you'd call a problem card and, of all the cards ever described as "too strong", is one of the least impacting ones.
How these two interact with the requirements of bannings or errata or restriction is a mystery to me, as the reasons for inclusion in the restricted list are described in the announcement from one former designer leave the matter pretty open: "On the restricted list, you will find the cards that have been cramping tournament play and preventing the game from being as enjoyable as we all know it can be. Some of these cards are part of an overpowered combination, some have risen to the status of “auto-include” and are simply too pervasive in the environment, and some were printed to address a very specific situation that the game has since grown past."
I feel however much of the demands for restriction stem from two traditional responses the Call of Cthulhu community has:
1- Every once in a while, there is an influx of new players, which, after experiencing the game, single out a few cards whose efficiency is slightly above the curve -in a few comical cases even slightly under- and, due to lack of experience and perspective proclaim those cards needs banning, restriction or errata;
2- The Call of Cthulhu community, as a whole, has a fascination with "surprise effects". This goes back, as far as I can remember, to an article published by Chris Long which compares the utility of Burrowing Beneath and Thunder in the East and puts the versatility of the former on par with the sheer efficiency of the latter. Since then, cards which can surprise your opponent or cause miscommits have been routinely overvalued (Polar events, revised Sacrificial Offering, Cats of Ulthuar, … , Master of the Myths)
What I can hope for (and I think it is not a misplaced hope, as the current Leading Designer has proven in the past a strong grasp on which measure to take to let the the game grow -well, except that teeny tiny scouting ruling I cannot really agree with-) is the current demand for banning, errata or restriction of Master of the Myths is heavilly counterbalanced with the current lack of effect Master of the Myths has on the metagame.