Pauper's New Best Friend: Stadium Holcan
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
The Mythgard Core Set, though thoroughly robust, has certainly been well explored by players through a long alpha and fruitful Beta process, introducing a variety of new possibilities in Tournaments. Players have put the Core Set through the ringer in Limited formats like Booster Drafts and Arena, and Constructed formats of all kinds—Ladders, 2v2 matches, Last Deck Standing tournaments, even Singleton. The robust tournament feature promotes a variety of deckbuilding restrictions, and while they come and go, with the expansion, Rings of Immortality, I expect to see a lot of interest in tournaments after release.
In particular, my beloved Pauper format and by a similar token Limited formats, as I have suggested before, are certainly desperate for more cards, to provide a simple variety of playstyles and decks, but perhaps most importantly to support more parity in Colors. As we’ve seen in both Limited and Pauper, the sheer strength of Purple commons like Terragon, and incoming commons like Backchannel Captain, tilt the landscape heavily in favor of certain Colors and away from others. As we have seen in the raw statistics of Pauper events, and as many have noted from Booster Drafts, the Yellow control terrors that haunt Constructed Ladder frequently do not translate to formats that rely heavily on lower rarities. Even potent Mythic bombs like Sapo, The Devourer often feel a bit out of place without reliable access to the control tools like Misanthropia that can reset a board of blockers and snowballing midrange minions. By the time the Yellow high end becomes viable, the board is often already clogged with escalating threats and snowballing trades. Even in cases where a card like Twin Blanque can help you turn the tides, hoping to draw a single copy on curve will often leave you scrambling to fill out your curve when it’s stubbornly hiding at the bottom of your deck. Being able to put together a deck with consistently powerful cards relies on a powerful core of Commons, and this has always left Yellow falling behind in Limited formats.
Considering the Specificity of Mechanics in Mythgard
While there are generic concepts which will follow card game players from game to game, the concepts of Card Advantage or Tempo, the more exacting genealogies of card games can provide insights into what sorts of mechanics and structures that will shape deckbuilding and gameplay. In some ways, it is impossible not to compare Mythgard to Magic: The Gathering, as a game which constructs decks freely out of cards organized by Color, and which emphasizes Minion combat through inherent blocking. The most critical and obvious difference especially in building a deck is that unlike Magic, there are no dedicated resource cards. The cards in your hand can be directly translated into the resources that play them (according to their Color), more directly tying card advantage to the growth of resources, but also shaping your Hand and Deck as you play. The flow of cards back into your deck has some curious consequences that are not always well accounted for when we consider the mechanics of deckbuilding and gameplay in Magic, where cards primarily move out of the Deck into other zones.
While I think we’re still developing theoretical approaches to hypergeometric calculation of decks—how many copies of a card are likely to generate what outcomes in the opening hand, for example—the newest mechanic, Forge, gives us something else to consider as we imagine burned cards moving in and out of the Deck. The first thing that stands out about our heroic Stadium Holcan is that it is Common, perfect for snapping up in a Booster Draft or packing the high end of your Pauper deck in a color that often felt underwhelming in Limited formats in the Core Set. What starts out as a vanilla bruiser, a weaker version of Metzin Giant, which could certainly justify a pick in a Booster Draft, becomes a punishing machine for rolling over chump blockers and brushing off damage. The lack of removal in Limited formats means that opponents will often need to kill your Holcan in combat, and the Forged bonus turns your Holcan into a beefier Volkov Heavy! While burning your expensive Minions now has some extra interest, this early burn will pay dividends sometime later, when you redraw your shiny Holcan Mk.2, what is even more exciting about a Common with Forged is that you can hope to have more than one in circulation and work on even more complex play patterns. Forge Minions receive their Forged bonus wherever they are, even in play. Your sluggish un-Forged Holcan may be able to lure a challenger that will suddenly become a favorable trade for your new and improved model! A Holcan that traded in combat can be brought back with a Necromantic after receiving its enhancements in the Boneyard!
Onward and Upward!
While guaranteeing that you have as many copies as possible in a Booster Draft is, obviously, less of a slam dunk than in Pauper, Yellow’s reputation as a disappointment in Draft can provide you with a great opportunity to double down on this Forge monster. Making an early pick of Holcan may increase the odds that other drafters will let other copies slip away or even see it wheel back to you as you decide early to concentrate on the Color Yellow and Forge minions that will become more and more powerful as you draft more of them. The unusual rules of Booster Draft in Mythgard which allows you to play up to nine copies of cards drafted makes a midrange beater like this even more attractive as you can develop a deck which will give you even stronger opportunities to Forge your cards than would even be possible in Constructed formats! Obviously we are all thrilled with new cards for every format, but the potential for cards of every power level, and especially a new mechanic like Forge, and what will, I think, be most exciting is seeing how more Limited formats, ones that will benefit most from an infusion of new cards, will grow and develop. Looking at how Colors have performed historically in a variety of formats, I can say that Stadium Holcan represents a fantastic addition to the pool of cards in these formats and offers new possibilities for Color balance in Limited formats. While we have already seen shiny and exciting toys for Standard Constructed, I expect to see a lot of these vibrant performers lighting up Booster Drafts, Arena Runs, and Pauper IV!
I have mentioned before that the art in this game is dazzling not simply in its quality but the radical imagination of a variety of cultures and traditions, and this is a thrilling example that I am happy to present here. Just as we see in the Godsbane Transport, where futuristic hovercraft represent the possible aesthetic descendants Mayan, Olmec, or Aztec stonework, and which we can see in the art of Bulwark, depicting Xiomara, Earthshaper, as well.
The depiction of ōllamaliztli, which is recognizable from Core Set’s Ollama Ring as it has survived into this alternate history’s future, adapted and evolved with the technological growth of Aztlan society. These robotic suits have brilliant plumes and beak-like helmets or visors which recall cuāuhtli, or Eagle Warriors, powerful contemporary symbols of Aztec heritage and lineage. The commitment to representing the wide variety of cultures in a futuristic, cyberpunk alternate history is, frankly, unparalleled and is the kind of quality I would expect from Rhino Games and Christian Fell!
 That is to say, the idea that there is a pace of development in the game’s pieces advancing toward a win condition, interrupting your opponent’s win condition, or both.  L0gick, who is much more competent to calculate pretty much anything put together a tool to calculate what your likelihood of drawing something is at any given point, provided you input how many cards you’ve burned, but this is obviously a much more complex enterprise than I am likely to understand. L0gick and Xaliver have also developed more thoughts on burning and deck math that I will hopefully some day understand fully.  Can you tell that I’m excited to have an excuse to host pauper events again?  It isn’t entirely clear to me if they are autonomous or manned exoskeletons but I’m sure Mantid Man will have some ideas!