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"Law" Spec is not the same as an MTG "Control" deck

Tentative post here for a thought that I’ve had about Law in the context of mono-blue.

It’s very long, and very messy. I’m not happy with it yet, but I want to know what others think.

I’ve also posted it on an external site because I fully intend to edit it over and over again, and that’s just the best place to put it.

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I don’t know Blue well enough to comment on this, but I’ll repeat what I said in the Discord.

If a spell is countered on MtG, the spell’s player has spent the mana to cast it. Part of the reason that Free Speech etc. don’t feel like counterspells is that this isn’t the case, so they can spend the gold on something else instead, even if it isn’t as good. The same thing happens with Censorship Council: they can’t play lots of cards, but they can spend gold on levelling high-stat heroes or going for Tech III instead, which just so happen to be the two options that Blue really struggles against.

In this sense, the closest thing to a counterspell in Codex is Carrion Curse, since it drains a resource (cards / hand size).

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I have played very little Codex, and don’t consider myself a strong player at all, so I welcome corrections from more confident players.

The problem you’re running into, I think, is that the nature of Codex puts very large emphasis on Tempo. Tempo is what allows you to counter spells (by killing the heroes that could cast them) and counter expensive creatures (by destroying the tech buildings that allow them to be played). You can make slow plays on your turn, but you should only do so if you expect that doing so allows you to gain economic/tech/tempo advantage on subsequent turns.

If you’re looking for a Codex that feels more like playing a control deck, I would suggest looking at Purple to see if it seems more like what you were expecting. At the end of the day, I just don’t think there is a deck that plays the same way that archetypal MtG control decks play. It’s just not that kind of game. 10 card starter decks, heroes being hirable at tech 0, and the way that you cycle through the deck at the end of each turn all combine to make the early game of Codex about fighting for the board/tempo.

To me, that’s a really welcome trade-off to MtG where there’s a chance one of the two players just wins automatically because of draw RNG. (I know this doesn’t happen all the time, but even the chance that it could happen eventually completely soured me on the game.)

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I agree with that assessment.

I’m not saying that there is, or should be a spec that plays like an MTG Control deck, I’m looking only at Law in the context of mono-blue and asking “Is this like an MTG Control deck?”.

I don’t think so, despite a lot of insisting that it is, and with that as the design goal. I don’t think it’s bad how it turned out.

To try and clarify a very messy point, I am only talking about terminology and fiddly nomenclature here. My eventual point is: If I wanted to get someone up to speed quickly about Law, I would tell them “Hey, think about these cards as though you’re playing Azorius (White/Blue) Tempo.” Someone who’s played a decent bit of MTG would understand what I’m saying (in MTG-ese, if we call it a "language).

In Codex-ese, I agree that this is a “Control” spec, so really, I see it as a translation of sorts.

Codex being very tempo oriented is a point I’m not trying to debate at this time. You’re probably right; I haven’t thought about it. I may have touched on it tangentially when I asserted that Codex does not have inevitability as we know it in MTG, but I digress.

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Good article; it reminds me of some of my own observations. A MTG-style control deck can’t exist within Codex’s framework, but you can get close… I think “a translation of sorts” is an apt description. I mostly agree with charnel and mystic, and I’ll add that Codex’s asynchronous design makes it possible for card prevention mechanics to whiff in a way that simply doesn’t exist in MTG, and that control mechanics are spread out across many Codex specs, but players are limited to 3 at a time and almost never have access to all of their cards at once, whereas with MTG you can just build a big deck, stuff it with search mechanics, and have an answer for anything on demand.

If I consider the 3 points you identified:

Card advantage can be found in Blue, Purple, White and Black in various forms. In terms of raw draw power, Peace is the king thanks to Flagstone Garrison, though Present is a strong contender. Law’s approach is more about precision than power. Sometimes, it’s better not to draw a card right away, and Law lets you draw cards one at a time, on your terms, and even float one if you overreach. This is a concept that doesn’t really exist in MTG, because in MTG you don’t discard your whole hand each turn, so you can rush to draw (or search) for a specific card and just hold onto it until needed. Stash also lets you tech key cards a bit earlier than would otherwise be practical, because you can hold a card in hand while setting up the preconditions to play it.

Inevitability, as you describe it, was specifically avoided in Codex’s design. Both the pay-to-win aspect and the possibility of one player’s deck design hard countering another’s were considered unhealthy.

The finisher… I think every Codex spec has one or two cards like this, typically the tech III unit and the ultimate spell.

With Blue, and especially Law, most cards aren’t really great on their own, but they shine in combination with other cards which aren’t always in the Law spec. Like, Jurisdiction provides flexilbility, but the 2 premium can really drag you down, except there’s Insurance Agent that can more than offset the loss. Community Service can provide excellent value, but it can also whiff and cost you $5 and a card for nothing but a bit of information… unless you have something like Eyes of the Chancellor or Flagstone Spy tip you off to the potential payoff. Guardian of the Gates will just die to heroes, disabling nothing and doing little damage, unless you have some way of stopping those heroes from attacking, but there’s Justice Juggernaut that can roll right up to your hero of choice and usually kill them, especially if you’re playing Boot Camp on it after it attacks. Jail doesn’t help much on its own, as your opponent will probably just play his tech III unit and immediately follow it up with some $1 (or $0) unit, unless you have Censorship Council, which gives you an extra turn to prepare for its arrival (or to smash it with General’s Hammer if it’s really nasty). Etc., etc. But, the more moving parts are involved in a control scheme, the harder it is to pull off, and often one or more of those parts need to be protected. It’s all much less straightforward than MTG, so I don’t know what kind of advice I could give to a MTG player to quickly and properly explain it.

I think my eventual solution of “Look at these cards as though you were playing an MTG Tempo deck” suffices for Law.

I can see the intent was to have lots of pieces working together to establish a lock, and if that’s the intent, then I can see why lots of people want Law to be buffed.

Borrowing from MTG theory, if you want to create a Combo deck (defined as 2+ cards that work together to win the game, either by stopping your opponent from playing anything, or reducing their life to 0, or reducing their deck to 0, or having cards that explicitly say “win the game”, typically in a non-interactive fashion), then “the core combo must be simple. When you look through most of the great combo decks of the past, the key combo consists of only two or three cards at most.”. [Above is a translated Shuhei Nakamura article].

Law by design, and through this lens, fails to be a robust combo deck precisely because it needs so many different cards to function, and to be undisputed. Maybe in an earlier version it had fewer pieces and was harder to disrupt, and that’s why it got toned down for release. Sure. But if it’s too difficult to assemble, it’s little wonder that people stop trying and just play Peace all the time.

I think this is a difficult design goal. Codex is pushing for interaction. Ergo, having something that is non-interactive (even as an eventuality) seems to fly in the face of this. I’m sure there could be some balance struck. I’m not good enough at design to offer a good solution, but can only offer my assessment purely as a player.

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I think something like this is more in line with that concept of a combo deck. I would hesitate to describe Blue in general or Law specifically as a combo deck, because while there are lots of combos available, you generally don’t want to and can’t use all of them, or rely on a single one to solve all your problems, and I think this is intentional.

Blue is more like… you try to read the opponent’s strategy and set up speed bumps and roadblocks to keep their plan from coming to fruition, until they’re boxed in and give up or you amass enough of an advantage to steamroll them.

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Which comes full circle to calling it a “Tempo” deck. That’s exactly how I would describe an MTG “Tempo” deck.

I am specifically arguing about what I [or we] call it for people who know MTG but not Codex. It is purely a nomenclature argument, and why it matters is because the theory we use to understand the game changes dramatically. Some things get emphasized over others, etc.

Fair enough, though for what little it’s worth, my concept of a tempo deck is shaped far more by my Hearthstone experience than my MTG experience, and I think of it more as dumping out units and heroes proactively to deal with the opponent’s board, which describes every deck in Codex to some extent.

The thing that’s unique about Blue is that it can turn off an opponent’s ability to function in ways that no other color can do, so maybe the terminology you’re looking for is “everything in Codex is a tempo deck, but Blue (especially Law) is more control-themed than other colors”?

I think my “translation” would be:

“Codex is a Tempo game, but Law has good tools for maintaining a Tempo advantage”.

Dunno. It leaves too much out. I don’t like that it’s not a clean idea.

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I think the concept of card advantage is much different in Codex compared to Magic. In Magic, blue-based control decks often play card-drawing spells, typically spells that draw 2-4 cards. As you point out, it is difficult for Blue to draw several cards in Codex. However, in Magic many of your cards are lands, just simple resource cards. In fact, Control decks often play a higher density of land cards to ensure they don’t stumble in the early parts of the game - they are counting on winning the late-game via high card quality and if they are not able to deploy their cards on time, it won’t matter if they have higher card quality, they will be dead.

In Codex you have many more options on a given turn than in Magic. Turn 1 in both games is far different, for example. Codex does test card advantage and treats it as an important resource, but it is not equivalent to the ways Magic treats card advantage. In Magic you can easily get into a stalemate situation where 1 evasive creature is attacking because both players have no options (just drawing creatures that can’t block, utility spells, or more lands). Drawing 1 card in Codex is never a complete blank, whereas it can frequently feel that way in Magic (hitting a pocket of 3-4 lands you don’t need for example).

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Well, yes, quite.

You’ve described the idea that MTG has the concept of Inevitability through its deck selection and Codex doesn’t.

I’m glad you agree.

Last tournament there was a Law/Peace/Finesse codex that ended up doing very well & apparently better than people expected (?). The current ‘experimental’ format players submitted codices for others to play has a lot of multicolor Law, often paired with Discipline for the more aggressive starter + cheaper combat hero + Insurance Agent/Rambasa twin combo? I’m glad that people are interested in researching Blue beyond the peace engine; Law/Blue getting trashed as the weakest spec/color/starter always felt undeserved to me.

Personally, I’ve had some success pairing Law with Blood/Fire, on the basis that the red starter loves going down on cards + Frenzy 1 makes administrators substantially more efficient attackers.

Fire actually has the closest thing to a control lock in Codex; if you untap with Firehouse + Hotter fire + any other building damage, your can explode tech buildings for free faster than they can be rebuilt, and virtually no Tech 0s can survive.


another deceptively aggression-supporting card might be Reputable Newsman? He’s really good at letting you play heroes aggressively turn 1-2 w/o them dying immediately? maybe?


a way Law does control in a way Magic has no analog for is: constraining your opponents tech choices. if you spend all your gold every turn & want to hit tech II asap, you only have 2g free that turn. so if you’re playing around Tax Collector, you can’t tech 3g tech Is. (on turn 2.) Likewise, you can’t just take all your best tech II units b/c Injunction directly counters that; you need to mix in more T0/T1s than you would normally. Community Service existing encourages your opponent to maybe not tech their biggest & best Tech IIs casually. Every answer card is like that to an extent in Codex, but Law’s feel different in the way they restrict broad categories of timings & strategies.

Tempo-wise, Injunction can be used to force your opponent to delay their next tech building by a turn (or rebuild the one you just broke b/c you sidelined their patrollers.). Community Service to take the only Tech II they drew the turn after they dumped 4g into a tech building is one hell of a tempo advantage. Taking their best patroller & gaining total knowledge of their options often means you can direct your offense with a 100% chance to kill the correct hero/tech, or (later) construct a ‘checkmate’ situation where your opponent has no way to stop you on their next turn.

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