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A Case for Writhing Chrysalis

MH3 Limited: A

This weekend, the Pro Tour will feature Modern Horizons 3 Limited, and the Modern format will be broadcast worldwide.

I've heard almost nothing but complaints about Modern Horizons 3 as a Limited format. I stopped playing Modern Horizons 3 Limited due to life events and a lack of interest. Generally, I can grind a Limited format until the cows come home, but I just couldn't this time.

I don't think MH3 Limited was too bad. It was average, but a few things bugged me. I was bothered that it tried too hard to be an homage to older sets while shoehorning in a bunch of rares that had minimal value in Limited to get them into packs, such as fetchlands, medallions, threshold uncommon lands, and rares that only have abilities when cast from the command zone. Collectively, this made for a chaotic experience and not in a good way.

Writhing Chrysalis - 2RG - When you cast this spell, create two 0/1 colorless Eldrazi Spawn creature tokens with "Sacrifice this creature: Add C." Reach. Whenever you sacrifice another Eldrazi, put a +1/+1 counter on Writhing Chrysalis. - 2/3

Even though almost everyone disagrees, I thought Writhing Chrysalis was great for the format. This is a mythic common, if you will, that holds one of the highest win rates of any card in the set. It reminds me of the good ol' days when you'd sit down to draft and weren't anticipating opening a busted rare but hoping to open Pestilence, Wild Mongrel, Troubled Healer, or maybe Sprout Swarm.

Busted commons have a rich history in Limited, and they've been absent for a while. Is it because commons have become weaker? Somewhat, but it's mostly because of how strong the cards around them have gotten.

Murder has been a great Limited common since it was printed (in all its iterations), but it's a simple one-for-one removal spell. It's not driving your deck in any direction and is just filling a necessary role in any Limited deck. This is not my idea of what the best commons should look like.

In today's Limited environments, we get a lot of busted rares, especially with play boosters increasing the amount of rares in a draft. I've heard many complaints about how bomb-heavy certain formats are, especially Sealed. You open a Sealed deck on MTG Arena, see your rares fly onto the screen, and get a good initial idea about how well you'll do from looking at the six or so cards shown on your screen.

I bet you didn't do that with MH3. You saw your rares but also immediately looked for how many, if any, Writhing Chrysalis were in your pool.

If you had more than one, you immediately felt in the game regardless of what your rares looked like. These high-win-percentage commons are great for Limited but should have found a better set to land in. With power level creeping up at uncommon and rare, it's time to power creep the commons, as well. It will make for more exciting Limited games and allow players to push back against the over-performing, over-tuned rares of the format.

MH3 is not that busted at rare, though. There are many really strong rares, but they are held in check by the strength of some uncommons and commons such as Writhing Chrysalis itself.

I loved the game a lot before power creep had taken hold of it, but power creep is here to stay. While Writhing Chrysalis is a broken common for limited, I don't see anyone rushing to play it in any form of Constructed. It still likely wouldn't see play if it was Pioneer legal, though I could see a world where it's playable in Standard. That is the sweet spot for how strong we'd want some of the best commons to be.

If we continue to push back against power creep at common, we will continue to have Limited sets with an imbalance in power level across the board. It will create this helpless feeling where you think, "I played a sweet game, then some rare I can't beat got cast, and everything before it didn't matter." That happens when the cards cast before it are too weak to compete. If we pushed the power level, and not just in a way that puts people's life totals to zero on turn four or five, we may have some awesome back-and-forth games between rares and commons.

Some people want Limited overall to be scaled down in power, but I've played far too much Core Set Limited in my life to enjoy it anymore. I want high-powered decks, cool synergies, and experiences that push closer towards Vintage Cube than towards 4th Edition Booster Draft.

To get to where games are fun, interesting, unique, and flashy, we need higher strength commons that give you the same excitement as when you open one of the best rares. Writhing Chrysalis did just this, you felt like your draft was starting out well, even after starting with a common.

Let's not forget that Limited is self-correcting. When there is an imbalance at common like we have with Writhing Chrysalis, players will adjust and start drafting those colors more. This leaves weaker color combinations open, so a lot of rares in other colors are ripe for the picking because people are fighting over red and green playables.

MH3 did a lot of things wrong. It tried to do a little too much, including making the product desirable to buy rather than focusing on how some inclusions would impact Limited play. Despite this, the format's overall philosophy and desire to push the envelope of power level outside of rares is a great thing. It will create a dynamic experience, and we need more busted commons in a set so there's not just one everyone's fighting over. We want a few more spread out across all colors so you can compete with any deck. Balancing out power level at Limited shouldn't only mean cutting back on broken rares but also pushing other rarities up to that level so that the format is more balanced.

I'm excited to see how the players at the Pro Tour draft and to hear their thoughts on the format as a whole.

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