You’re a Designer, Harry! #15 – Comment Ketchup
Welcome back, collaborators of four-colored dream-realizers! Today, I’m going to answer all comments left without a reply on each of all of the articles I’ve written for this column up to this point. Of course, some comments are now aged with what we know now, but I think that would make for a more interesting answer, anyway. Concerns of the past may very well be something that should be brought back into the limelight if it started to become obscured by more current issues. Let’s get right into it, starting with the most recent going backwards (because it’d be nice to see the comments of other people as they are in their present time first before we go backwards and see what crazy things they were suggesting before (or wise things)!
Oh, one thing: the regular readers of you of “You’re a Designer, Harry!” may be puzzled by my posting this in the middle of the week. It’s simple: My column isn’t on Fridays anymore! Hooray! Truthfully, it’s supposed to be posted on Wednesdays, but it’s pretty late right now for a Wednesday, so it seems like a Thursday post, especially for you east coasters! However, no matter, we’ve got lots of text below! Read on!
Chah – August 23rd, 2011
I think bringing back Hideaway is exciting, because it can go on creatures and other types, and that would be a big twist.
You can make cards that say “Cards exiled with Hideaway cost 1 less to cast” or “If you would exile cards from your library with Hideaway, exile an additional card.” to give it a degree of linearity.
By the way, if you want to change the way Hideaway or Prowl works, you should change the name of the keyword, like landcycling or multikicker did.
I don’t think the Face-down Lurk should require tapping the host creature as a cost.
– If the host creature is killed, the Lurker is stranded forever. People often don’t even want to play Auras because it causes them to lose card advantage. If there’s no tap cost, you could put it onto the battlefield whether the host is dead or not.
– The best part of Face-down Lurk is that you can give a creature a mystery augmentation. Will the host creature suddenly regenerate, gain shroud or deathtouch, or gain a saboteur ability? That makes combat interesting, like morph. However, with a tap cost, this ability can only be used for surprise blocking. This ability really wants to be used to help attackers as well as blockers
I see that the tap cost was introduced to prevent face-down guys from popping off a host and surprise-blocking too often. It’s a legitimate concern; the mere presence of a face-down Lurker could discourage attacks too much. I think this can be solved by making the face-down exiled guys enter the battlefield tapped, instead of requiring an untapped host.
By the way, I feel that Face-down Lurk creatures who can be Lurked out for total cost that’s cheaper than the card’s casting cost will feel very weird if you play them. You would exile it, then put it into play the same turn. It basically plays like a Convoke where you only tap one guy, and it won’t feel like Lurking in the shadows at all. You could make a Lurker that costs less to Lurk out if its host is dead, creating tension for the opponent. “Should I kill that host or not?” But I don’t recommend Lurkers where the purpose is to cheat on the cost and pop off immediately.
I think the Face-up version of Lurk is the better of the two, because it’s simple and has creative uses.
It’s like a Griffin Guide except you can cast it as a creature if you wanted to. The biggest benefit I see with this is, you can mix and match creature cards in your hand to make your own monster, without losing card advantage.
Imagine your hand contains some shadowy bat thing with flying, a scorpion-like thing with deathtouch, and a horned beast with first strike. You can choose to cast them individually, or cast two or three of them merged together. You can choose which one is the main body and which one is just lending an ability. Each combination costs something different, and it could create fun choices. If it dies, you lose the main body but the parts you invested pop off and become creatures.
That said, I don’t know if it’s the best match for this shard. I don’t mean the flavor. I know the original intention of the Underneath mechanic was to represent something being underground, but I think it’s ok for flavor and mechanics to change and develop in tandem with each other so they wrap around each other, like mana crystals turning into Eldrazi Spawn in ROE. For example, Lurk could have the flavor of creatures who can turn themselves into shadow form to hide in dark places, sometimes taking over the shadows of other creatures.
But the way that this mechanic plays (mechanical flavor?) might not feel so much like darkness. Prowl or Hideaway has something hidden come at you from nowhere, which does feel like darkness.
The mechanical feel of face-up Lurk might actually fit the non-Green steampunk shard more. It’s like Izzet meets Simic. (You can use your cards inventively like Izzet, and you can make your own creature like Simic.) I realize Simic is green, but the flavor of this mechanic can be used for artifact creatures in non-Green colors – mechanical lego-bots that can be fused together as needed. Just a thought.
Finally, some minor points:
Face-up Lurk creatures that don’t give abilities to their host could be high-costing huge guys. You could Lurk it under your best permanent and it would be like a Baloth Cage trap or Cobra Trap, daring your opponent to touch that permanent.
You mentioned the lack of blink effects in non-White colors, but I don’t think this mechanic should be about proactively sacrificing or blinking the permanent yourself. I think it’s possible to put enough sacrifice effects and bounce effects in a non-White world, but it would feel like a weird, arbitrary procedure for cheating creatures into play. I can’t think of a resonant flavor for that other than the Xenomorphs from the Alien movies, which I don’t think is good for this shard.
Regarding changing the name of Hideaway for off-beat workings of Hideaway: Making a change in the name for a twist is a valuable technique to consider when designing. However, I think it appearing on non-lands (and non-rares, for that matter) is a big enough twist that we don’t have to do that now.
This brings to mind how I wanted to change Hideaway to a wording where it had a number. “Hideaway 4” being the one we saw in the Lorwyn lands. So, your suggestion confirmed to me that I shouldn’t be messing with adding a number in there since there’s a twist already.
Especially since changing the amount of cards you get to look at and choose from isn’t that particularly exciting. The exciting thing to do is to change the condition of using your hidden away card and what happens with your hidden away card.
Putting a lurk card face down under a permanent needs to have a purpose, I believe. If there’s no interaction between a lurking card and its host, then it’d be meaningless to choose a permanent. You could put them all down under the same permanent, etc. My solution to that was to involve the host in its un-lurking using the tap symbol. That way, not only there is a reason to lurk under a permanent, it encourages you to lurk under different permanents. This is while avoiding writing in the rules for lurk that it can’t be lurking under a permanent that already has something lurking under it. Less elegant that way. With that said, I do share your sentiment for lurk inheriting the disadvantages of Auras wtih this method. Well, it’s a good thing both hideaway and face-up lurk are looking more appealing!
I think your analysis of face-down lurk with the dynamics of combat are correct. There’s a problem with lurking under creatures and requiring the tap symbol. The same goes for when you choose to lurk a card, then un-lurk it for a cheaper cost than just casting it normally. It’s odd indeed, which makes me keep in mind that if this is going to be in the set, we should have the converted mana cost be cheaper than the cost of lurking then un-lurking. That means we’re forced to use awesome abilities on lurking cards. Ah, well. =)
I like your proposition for the face-up lurk version! It interacts well with the vanilla faction, too! This is going to definitely have to be tried out and tested.
Wobbles the Goose – August 24th, 2011
These are some interesting mechanics. Common themes: Alternative casting cost, damage related, Hidden Cards
I think these can be more properly expressed by building a new mechanic around them, rather than trying to shoehorn in an existing mechanic.
Most of all, I like prowl. It’s a great concept. Unfortunately, it’s got all this creature type baggage because that’s the block it came from. You’ve got PLENTY going on between the different Shards before you ask players to worry about tribes within a shard.
Bloodcost: X (You may cast this for its bloodcost if an opponent lost life this turn.)
Affinity for Damage (This spell costs 1 less to cast for each life an opponent has lost this turn.)
Conscript (Each creature you control that has dealt damage to an opponent this turn reduces this spells cost by 1 or by one mana of that creature’s color.)
Three ways to do the same thing. Blood cost might be to similar to Prowl, but that didn’t stop hexproof vs shroud. Affinity for damage is a little ugly, considering spells are going to have very few generic mana symbols in this block. I like Conscript, but it has a few memory issues. Probably not to many, considering those creatures will have survived, and you’ll be casting immediately after combat anyway.
While I’d love to find a way to get the face up lurk mechanic to work, cards on the battlefield need to either A) Do exactly what they say on the card. IE If it looks like a creature, it better be able to attack or block. or B) Be a morph. Having cards littering the field that are Haunting creatures or just ambiguously facedown is a recipe for confusion.
Hideaway is a neat mechanic. It just has a lot going on. It was fine on rares, but it’d mean a million lines of text on commons. Even if you tied it to a single trigger, it seems messy.
Hope that helps
Conscript also has the problem of allowing free spells. You really want to be able to limit this down to one spell a turn.
I agree with you about prowl. By now, it’s been decided, as pointed out by Jules, that prowl wouldn’t be a good choice. This is because we’re not making enough of a twist to prowl to make it compelling enough as a returning mechanic. At best, it would return in a Core Set. …That, or tribal or another tribal-related mechanic would be involved. So, prowl goes away.
Bloodcost feels too similar to bloodthirst. It doesn’t give enough of a reward, either. At least with bloodthirst, you get a permanently bigger dude. For reducing cost, you get a smaller dude earlier. That is, if you have the mana for it. Not exciting enough.
Affinity for damage: I like how you’re thinking, but it’s not so flexible. To prevent affinity for damage from getting too out of control, you’d have to have a limit to the generic mana in the mana cost, which isn’t awesome. This would be happening anyway since, as you said, there’d be all this colored mana involved.
Conscript: This is just like affinity for damage except even more of a “Yikes! Broken card potential” attribute, even if it makes it work within this block.
Very nicely done in creativity for new mechanics, though. We’re going to hone in on our mechanics much better this way.
As for hideaway, you’re right. We’re only going to be able to do the simplest possible for an ability that works with a hidden away card to reduce the lines of text on commons. Check it out, I tried doing it as simple as possible in a few ways:
Jules Robins – August 31st, 2011
Sorry I didn’t get back to you on this, I forgot to mention that I was going out of town last week, on which note: I will be at Kennedy’s this week (tomorrow) if you’re available to discuss/playtest.
On hideaway, I share Wobbles’ concern that it’s a lot of text. We can spend our complexity points here if we want, but that doesn’t change the fact that we can only have a one-line ability on top of Hideaway and a way to cast it. We may find enough interesting designs regardless, but it’s certainly a limitation.
I also think Chah’s suggestion of turning Lurk into a lego-bot mechanic has some merit. On top of feeling in flavor, it lets the ‘shard’ be flying-centric without as many cards having to say flying on them as long as you assemble everything on fliers (and who doesn’t want evasion?). Moreover, it would solve the clunkiness issues that finding equipment would have while preserving the mechanized feeling.
Yeah, I see that it can be a limitation. See the above to see it in action on commons. Man, that’s a lot of text. And I wonder if having it on creatures makes it weird to have a few face-down cards possibly moving around along with creatures shifting around for combat purposes. Hmm. Must playtest.
I’m liking the lego-bots idea. Though, I wonder which faction it should be in. If it’s in the nonwhite faction, it’s more synergistic since it makes vanilla creatures gain abilities. And, if lurk cards grant abilities to what they’re lurking while they’re lurking, then it wouldn’t matter whether you lurk under a flier or have a flier lurk under something else. Well, some fliers might grant something else, but I imagine the common lurkers with flying would grant exactly that. If it’s in the nonwhite faction, then it would just be sensible to have some nongreen-flavored creatures drafted for your nonwhite-style deck.
…At the same time, I like the mechanized feeling. But, part of me wants colored artifacts to accompany the mechanic, and I don’t really want to do colored artifacts being in the set making it seem more like Shards than I would like (It already is closer than I would like).
Chah – August 5th, 2011
This is great. A set with multiple faction themes, as well as a set with multicolor costs really is the best place for working with a vanilla theme.
Beastmind Tribe RG
Creature – Human Warrior
Whenever a creature with no abilities enters the battlefield, you may return ~ from your graveyard to the battlefield.
Wavesmasher Ogre 2RG
Creature – Ogre Warrior
Walking Landmass BRGW
Creature – Elemental Beast
Terrifying Lizard BRGW
Creature – Lizard
Currently, what I’m thinking for the common creatures for the vanilla faction is all vanilla. Except, if it’s part of a cycle. Then, all the non-vanilla stuff would be on non-creatures. When we dip into uncommons, then that’s where cards like Beastmind Tribe would appear. Probably a cycle within the faction itself: one for each color OR one for each color pairing. We’ll hammer out the exact details of individual cards later once we settle on our mechanics.
Jules Robins – July 22nd, 2011
I like the new trigger condition for civilize better, but I still think that the backwards compatibility issue is a big one. It’ll be less of an issue the further we get from Lorwyn.
On Zen, you might be able to do something more backwards compatible while catching (most) virtual vanillas by using Torpor Orb’s precedent. “Whenever a creature that doesn’t have any abilities that doesn’t trigger when a creature enters the battlefield enters the battlefield under your control, …” On second thought, that doesn’t look so clean, but it all worked so nicely in my head. :grumbles:
More to come if I can come up with it.
As we discussed before, it might not be so bad to have creatures from the past have two creature types instead of one. The bad thing would be creatures that LOST creature types and went from two or more to one. Though, I don’t know if there are any cases like that. It’d just mean that creatures you thought weren’t awesome are now awesome. …This is all concerning creatures from the past, though. How much should that impact us. Within the block, we’ll make sure every creature that matters has two creature types. And, with this set being placed in an unspecified timeline of Magic, perhaps we can assume it’s already far away from Lorwyn.
As for Zen, since we’re already doing a vanilla faction, we’re not going to do something like Zen anymore. The only place would be for the colorless faction; and, just as I pointed out before with trying to get all vanilla with colorless, not having those colored mana symbols to work with makes vanilla-friendly zen creatures quite weak. Also, too much overlap.
Jay Treat – July 22nd, 2011
Zen is MUCH better than bare. The current trigger feels way too much like Allies (and weak Allies at that), but I do see potential for some interesting mechanic of the form “mechanic—keyword.” (Just not sure what, yet.)
That said, it’s not what I expected when you suggested a faction that cares “about vanilla creatures.” You went with “give them an ability that likes things that don’t have abilities” where my mind went to “give them no abilities.”
I actually thought to myself, this is a clever way to deliver the required proportion of vanillas for the set: Make them all part of one faction. Is that a boring faction? Not if you make these vanilla creatures cost-effective. Not if the faction’s non-creature cards all care about vanilla creatures in a Muraganda Petroglyphs kind of way. Actually, there are tons of possibilities:
CARDNAME deals damage to target c/p = to the # of creatures you control w/ no abilities.
Destroy target cr w/ abilities.
Target cr becomes a 4/4 with no abilties [until EOT]
Creatures with no abilities can’t be blocked by creatures with abilities.
Maybe not your cup of tea, just a thought.
I see potential mechanic – keyword, too! Ah, there’s an awesome mechanic somewhere just waiting to be designed like this. =)
And, Jay, it’s because of this reply to Zen that made me want to do a vanilla faction. So, thank you!
Troacctid – July 23rd, 2011
Bare and Elegance are unprintable at common. They’re way too complex. Also, they’re self-contradictory–aren’t they supposed to reward you for playing simple cards? What a bunch of hypocrites, right? Zen is simpler, but it doesn’t solve the self-contradiction problem; also, the way you have it templated, it actually doesn’t work (ability words can’t self-reference). And even if it did work, I guarantee players wouldn’t use it the way you want them too. It would become “Whenever a creature token enters the battlefield.”
Just making any reference at all to creatures with no abilities is probably too complex for common no matter what you do. Muraganda Petroglyphs is a pretty basic effect with the mechanic and it still causes a lot of confusion. I think you’re going in the wrong direction.
What about bonuses if you didn’t attack or block this turn? That feels very “Zen”–being rewarded for doing nothing. Like you’re meditating.
Zen Loxodon 3W
Creature – Elephant Monk (C)
Zen (At the beginning of your upkeep, if ~ hasn’t attacked or blocked since your last upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Zen Knight WW
Creature – Human Knight Monk (U)
Zen Master 2WW
Creature – Human Monk (R)
Other creatures you control have Zen. (Each instance of Zen triggers separately.)
Zen Rhox 4G
Creature – Rhino Monk (C)
‘Course, I’m not exactly sure how “Colorless” this version is feeling. I naturally want to put these cards in white and green.
It’s a good thing we’re not doing Bare and Elegance anymore! You’re right that ability words can’t self-reference, but notice that Elegance isn’t an ability word. It isn’t italicized text before the hyphen, and the text is all within reminder text. It’s just like Horobi’s Whisper, for example.
Your point about referencing creatures with no abilities: I think players can start to get what isn’t an ability on a creature. Players-in-the-know just need to point this out to players that don’t know this. Once they get it, it’s all good. Besides, we can have those informational cards that go where the token slot is in the booster pack. Well, I better believe that this can work, otherwise, the vanilla faction just lost an important tool!
I like where you were going with not attacking or blocking as a proposition for zen. It taps into the thought of “nothing.” What does it mean to be about nothing? No cards in hand? No library? No attacking and blocking? No creatures (Ew.)? Etc.
Chah – July 23rd, 2011
I think the good thing about bare and zen is that it tries to capture a philosophy for colorless:embracing simplicity and nothingness.
At the moment, the implementation seems too artificial – the card changes itself to artificially match its ability’s condition.
I think Bare is a case where morph-tech can help.
Zen Master 2G
As ~ enters the battlefield, turn it face down. (face-down permanents are colorless 2/2 creatures.) It enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters on it equal to the number of creatures you control with no abilities.
Otherwise, if you want a virtual vanilla creature that counts as a creature with no abilities, you can make it into a token-making sorcery.
Warcry Goblin 1R
Put a red 1/1 Goblin Warrior token onto the battlefield.
Until end of turn, creatures you control with no abilities get +1/+0 and have haste.
Another direction you can go is creatures and spells that make other creatures lose their identities.
Rage Inciter 2R
Creature – Human Shaman
When ~ enters the battlefield, turn target nontoken creature face down. (Face-down permanents are colorless 2/2 creatures with no abilities.)
Face-down creatures you control get +2/+0.
Creature – Human Wizard
When ~ enters the battlefield, turn target nontoken creature face down. (Face down permanents are colorless 2/2 creatures with no abilities.)
Master of Meditation G
Creature – Human Monk
When ~ enters the battlefield, turn target nontoken creature face down. (Face-down permanents are colorless 2/2 creatures with no abilities.)
When ~ leaves the battlefield, turn target face-down creature face up and put two +1/+1 counters on it.
Master of Meditation 2G
Creature – Human Monk
When ~ enters the battlefield, turn target nontoken creature face down or turn target face-down creature face up. Put two +1/+1 counters on that creature. (Face down permanents are colorless 2/2 creatures with no abilities.)
Then you can have other spells and permanents that reward either ability-less creatures, or colorless creatures.
It could be weird to have a halfway morph ability. But the benefit is that these cards can work with other cards even in a linear strategy. For example, in Limited you can have a deck themed around colorlessness, and still mix creatures that have color into the deck without feeling bad.
Also, it would feel like these guys are working to change the world into a colorless place, which I think is a neat identity for coloressness.
I think it would be neat if these colorless guys had their own race.
Concerning Civilize, this card comment by Aaron Forsythe brought home to me the problems that could happen.
Token-making sorceries and instants are exactly the kind of tech that the vanilla faction can make use of, whether it’s exclusively a vanilla faction thing, or it’s synergy with whatever the nonblack faction is doing (token faction?).
Of course, morph is out of the picture, so we won’t go into that.
As for the concern by Aaron Forsythe that may be similar to one for civilize: In the case of Aaron Forsythe’s tale, it was about creature type CHANGES. In that case, it made older cards misrepresent what it had. It didn’t have an Archer type at the time. It had Soldier instead. However, in civilize’s case: The creature, most of the type, will still have the creature type it has; except, it has an additional creature type. The difference is that it’s not MISrepresenting. It’s just NOT representing something ADDITIONAL.
With that said, it’s a legitimate concern.
Jeremy Cheong – July 23rd
You need other ways to make vanilla creatures a valid strategy, the above mechanics seem to me like they’re more like keyworded-creatures masquerading as vanilla creatures. Functionally they’re not, and only their own ability claims that they are, indeed vanilla.
Perhaps you should look into parts of the card other than their abilities to create interesting creatures. I think this is true elegance. An idea- extend the basic subtype to things other than basic lands. What does basic mean, other than what you can target with some spells? That you can put Any number of them into your deck. Creatures which allow you to play more than 4-of would be an interesting mechanic without being an actual ability.
I agree completely, Jeremy. Zen is cheating at being a vanilla. And I am now looking at different parts of the card besides the text box for mechanics to interact with. The basic type idea is something I’ve pondered for a bit but not completely. Hmm. Something for the nonblack faction? If so, then cards that reference permanents with the same name would benefit tokens, basic lands, and other nonland basic cards (basic creatures, basic enchantments, basic artifacts, etc.).
What about something that triggers whenever a basic permanent enters the battlefield under your control?
Devon Rule – July 8th, 2011
Lurk is stylin’ and interesting, but Civilizations seems like a terrible idea. “Number of creature types matters” was not popular when Jay Treat suggested it for the GDS2, and Magic has a lot of Goat Beasts and Plant Zombies.
Right. Well, I think caring about two or more is less of an issue than caring about just having a single creature type. However, you do have a point about Goat Beasts and Plant Zombies. It’d be a mis-match for flavor. However, we can just focus on designing within the block, and all the creatures within the block can either have a job/class when having multiple creature types or have just one creature type.
However, civilizations is now defunct. The improved civilize feels too much like allies. We’ll see if creature type gets used (it was going to be with a new race and prowl for a moment until we discovered that prowl wasn’t evolving as as mechanic when being brought back).
Jules Robins – July 8th, 2011
Prepare for some long-winded thoughts:
I’m not sure Morph is the best idea for the nonwhite faction. As was mentioned in the GDS2, Morph has a very high complexity level, but because it works well with itself, needs to be at common. If I was going to bring back morph for a set, I would wait for it to be much more integral to the block than 1 of 6 faction mechanics. I just don’t think we can spare the ‘complexity points.’ Chah’s second implementation of Lurk is certainly a possibility, and it conveys underground, but I’m wondering if there’s another way to convey lack of light than lack of information. If not, I still really like the blindness idea. I wonder if we could make it feel like upside by letting you cast things cheaply with it, but that might be hard to balance. Anyway, for the sake of discussion:
Blind Seer (Not the Urza[s]‘s Legacy[/s] One) URG
Creature – Fungus Shaman (C)
Blindcast (Discard a card: Exile the top card of your library. You may play that card this turn. If you do, it costs 1 less to cast for each permanent with blindcast you control.)
On the nonblue faction, the first thing that came to mind was another fairly random mechanic. I’m not sure we could swing one random mechanic, much less two, but if Blindcast is terrible (I’m not very good at evaluating my designs in the moment), then maybe this has a chance.
Prize Steer 2RG
Creature – Aurochs (C)
Migrate (At the beginning of the end step, exchange control of ~ and a random permanent that shares a card type with it.)
I kind of like that you might keep it, but it could definitely work only changing with opponents’ stuff. I was also thinking about making this a delayed trigger off of attacking which would
1. Let you use it at least once
2. Give you some control over the situation
3. Maintain the functionality of making them unsure if they want to trade for it, especially if double blocking.
Then again, this whole mechanic is a bit (a lot) too blue, so it should probably be scrapped. Stop deceiving me Confusion in the Ranks!
On nonblack, as a general rule I’m not sure the Civilization mechanic is a problem, but if we’re pretending that this is a block currently in design for creation, I think Lorwyn is too recent. With all of the cards printed to the Grand Creature Type Update, virtually nobody has any idea how many subtypes their creatures have. It’s backwards compatibility is its downfall. That said, we may not be designing this set for now with Shards so recently ingrained in our memories, and this is a mechanic which I think could work well about eight years down the line.
For the nonred group, I could definitely see using the top card as a resource, and that’s probably the best solution. Nevertheless, I immediately wondered about announcing you future plays. Something like:
Purposeful Infantry WU
Creature – Human Soldier (C)
Dictate (When ~ enters the battlefield, choose a number then put that many time counters on ~. At the beginning of your upkeep remove a time counter from ~. When you remove the last time counter from ~, it must attack this turn if able and you draw a card.)
It could of course have a different bonus or penalty for each creature, but I think it’s complicated enough as is.
If we go with the top card of library mechanic, I think we should have them all key off of the same aspect so that they’re either on or off, each needing a different condition would get too difficult to process very quickly. To that end, I would propose:
Readied Guard 2W
Creature – Human Soldier (C)
Preparation–First strike (Play with the top card of your library revealed, as long as the top card of your library is a land card, ~ has first strike.)
I think the land/nonland duality makes the most sense for an on/off mechanism, and made land the positive for a few reasons:
1. It will be off more than on. This discourages running these cards in other factions’ decks, but they should still be strong enough with the heavy dose of library manipulation the nonred faction is bound to have.
2. It encourages players to play more lands which should help them to avoid color screw in this multicolored enviroment.
3. If you’re drawing spells you’re generally the one winning, I thought the mechanic might be too swingy if it helped you while you were ahead, but it might be unfun to intentionally flood yourself to work for this bonus.
And last, but not least, the nongreen assembly. I think the flying focus is certainly in order, and equipment does seem appropriate, but I’m unsure of the equip nongreen mechanic. In my opinion, it seems to blatant where the other factions are subtle, but perhaps the equip 2 version could work. To that end we’d need a few different equipments that cost 2 to equip and gave flying at common, and we could account for their other effects with their mana costs, but the searching text takes a lot of room, so a simpler implementation might help.
One thought, since we currently have no creature counters unless we use Dictate, is that the nongreen assembly could use steam counters.
Turbine Tender 1U
Creature – Human Artificier (C)
~ enters the battlefield with a steam counter on it. (Creatures with steam counters have flying.)
Remove a steam counter from ~: Tap target creature.
3, T: Put a steam counter on target creature. (Creatures with steam counters have flying.)
With this implementation, we’d need tokens for Steam Counters which would of course also have the reminder text, but it all still feels a bit messy to me.
That’s all for now, I hope some of those thoughts were useful.
Morph is, of course, gone now. Good going on your campaign against morph, even though the reason why I took it out is because of the vanilla faction.
One that note, what you proposed for the nonblue faction is now not able to work since the nonblue faction is now the vanilla faction.
The nonblack faction might need to go back to the drawing board and explore areas similar to blindcast here. Perhaps.
The nonred faction’s keying off of the top of the library is the direction I think we should go, as we’ve discussed before. I like the last iteration you proposed. Mechanic – Keyword ability and caring about a land on top is cool. This, with the necessary library manipulation, means smart players will play around during the upkeep. Shifting the top cards of their library to make sure they draw a nonland then have a land on top. Tricky! Do we like it? Maybe. Playtest? Definitely.
I like steam counters but feel a little bit off about it. It could be cool to take off the steam counter once it’s later in the game and having a small flyer is no longer desirable. Of course, let’s think about our current lego-bot idea, too. Hmm. Could we use counters for other type of mechanics in another faction? Think, think think.
Jonathan Woodward – July 8th, 2011
Your “civilization” ability seems similar to the one Jay used in the GDS2, and it didn’t seem to work very well there (and the judges didn’t care for it much). Furthermore, it seems to be written as a downside ability – you have this cool power, but then you play another guy and it turns off.
What if, instead, the ability turned on when you control another creature that shares a type with it? Now there’s actual cooperation going on between your creatures, and drafting/deckbuilding could be an interesting puzzle for Johnny types. It also has some tribal aspects without being explicitly tribal.
Alternatively, you could go a step further and require two other creatures that share a type. I think this could lead to some neat interactions between a creature’s race and class, but I’m concerned that it also creates too much board complexity. “I have an elf shaman, a human shaman, and a human wizard. The human shaman’s civilization ability turns on, but the elf shaman’s does not.”
I like your proposition of caring about only having at least one other creature sharing a type with it. It feels clean. Of course, like you said, having two creatures sharing a type with it would be too complex. Hmm. If we do this for the nonblack faction, then that means we can’t have any creatures in black that share a creature type found in creatures in white, blue, red, and green. That actually sounds exciting! It can be done, of course. Vampires, horrors, shades, zombies, skeletons, imps, rats, etc.!
Jay Treat – July 8th, 2011
The overall impression I get from what you’ve presented today—apart from the fact that you have put a lot of thought and care into the project—is that you are focusing too much on keeping players from drafting more than one faction and not enough on the synergies between the factions. Should a player be able to draft as many cards from that faction as possible and then reap the rewards? Yes. Should a player who just drafts a couple colors (from multiple factions) end up with jank because none of his cards work together? That would suck.
While there are pros and cons to each of the mechanics you’ve suggested, others have covered most of the cons of a given mechanic. What concerns me is the larger picture. What will a player think when he opens his first booster pack and sees a morph guy, a civ guy, an equipment/flying guy, a dude with forecast, an adaptive creature and multicolor/hybrid/anti-mana? Head asplode?
I know we’re looking to Shards of Alara and the guilds of Ravnica as our model and that they had a different mechanic per faction—and I’m not saying that’s wrong*—but perhaps we need less novel/complex mechanics. In Alara, we had Unearth, Devour, 5+ Power Matters, Exalted and Artifacts-matter. There are just three keywords here and a number of synergies—Unearth helps you devour more creatures. 5+ Power Matters works more with Devour creatures and Exalted creatures. At the very least, none of mechanics actively negate each other.
*From what I’ve heard, Ravnica is the most popular block of all time and I *know* it’s my favorite. That said, it was not flawless. Some mechanics were terrible (Radiate), some were misplaced (Replicate), and some were great but had no synergy with the others (Dredge). There were also TEN of them across the block, which is a bit of a stretch (and part of the reason there was so much design space left for Bloodthirst in M12). Best ever != perfect. Even if it was, we still have to aim to do even better with new sets.
It would be particularly helpful to end this comment with a suggestion for what to actually use. That’s not going to happen. I’d love to, but I know as well as you how much time and mental energy that takes, and I’m already running on empty. If something comes to mind later on, I’ll be sure to share it. Good luck; keep up the good work!
Thanks, Jay. I’m doing exactly that now, making sure that there are synergies going on with my factions to help accomplish making this set draft-variety-friendly. For the four-color-only goal, I’m going to also need to worry about the “hated” colors for each faction not being synergistic as well. Achieving both of these at once will create create boundaries that box players into conveniently playing up to just four colors.
Chah – July 8th
The idea of a barrier of Volcanoes preventing things from passing is a hard sell. Magic is filled with such diverse and amazing creatures that all of them can’t be contained by the same thing. Some will fly very high, some will be very tough or have protection from Red, maybe some can even teleport, or swim through lava.
Since the non-Black world has the king act as the “Black barrier,” it makes me think, all the worlds can be different like that. They don’t have to be regions shut off by a wall of what they hate. They could just be different regions of the same connected world that each suffer an affliction based on a particular element. For example, the lights don’t need to surround the region or world, they can just be weird lights in the sky that hold the viewer mesmerized and paralyzed. The non-Black kingdom could be suffering from Zombie attacks, in a region where the dead don’t stay dead.
That way, the story could be about “why did mana go wild?” instead of “how did the world get separated into shards?” (By the way, if this was a Final Fantasy game, I know what the reason would be… but I must think differently…)
I like how the shifting shorelines in the non-Blue world makes planning meaningless.
I think it’s clever that the Civilization mechanic can make you not want to play black creatures. However, I have a feeling that not all of the mechanics will be color-exclusive to the same degree. There should be another way of making players not want to splash for a fifth color. It could be a set-wide keyword, or it could be about how the mana fixing works.
Jay has a great point. The biggest challenge is to eventually find overlap and common ground between neighboring colors.
At this stage, I think we just need to produce more and more candidates mechanics and/or descriptions of the world regions/shards to work with. It might be possible to adjust the mechanics to be friendly with each other. Or even if the mechanics aren’t inherently complementary, at least some connector pieces could designed as cards.
Just an idea: Each faction could have a theme tied to a card type (like creature, land, etc). That could allow for a natural kind of linearity without being parasitic. There’s lots of room for designing theme-connectors.
Instants & Sorceries: non-White?
It would be interesting to brainstorm what kind of mechanics can be devised for these, and what kind of world they represent. (Or the reverse – what a world that lacks or despises these things are like, and what mechanics would represent that.)
Here is an example:
The non-Green world is a world where something is wrong with green mana, and vegetation has gone rampant. Anyone sleeping at ground level will be covered with strangling, carnivorous vines by the morning. People have developed the technology to live among the clouds.
Steampack Assaulter 1(W/B)
Creature – Human Soldier Artificer
Whenever you cast an artifact spell, ~ gets +2/+0 and gains flying until end of turn.
Creature – Human Artificer
Steamcharge (Tap an untapped artifact you control: Put a steam counter on ~.)
2UB, T, Remove three steam counters from ~: Put a colorless 3/3 Golem artifact creature token onto the battlefield.
Here’s a mechanic to enable 4-color play without enabling 5-color play.
Draw four cards, then discard three cards. Explore. (You may sacrifice a land as you cast this. If you do, search your library for a land card of a neighboring type of the sacrificed land and put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library. For example, Islands neighbor Swamps and Plains.)
Magmatic Upheaval 2RR
Explore (You may sacrifice a land as you cast this. If you do, search your library for a land card of a neighboring type of the sacrificed land and put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library. For example, Mountains neighbor Swamps and Forests.)
Magmatic Upheaval deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
Flavorwise, it represents societies shut off by various dangers like flames, etc. trying to break out into new land.
Mechanically, it lets you play like: 1 Swamp, 8 Mountains, 8 Forests, 1 Plains, and a couple of Explore spells.
It would be really, really hard to go 5 colors, especially if the set is full of cards that make you want to play 2 main colors. In the above deck example, you would have to cast an Explore spell sac a Mountain to get a splash land like a Swamp, then cast another Explore spell to sack the splash Swamp to get an Island, but then you’d have trouble getting another Swamp again.
An idea of non-Black land: The land is infested with masses of black ooze that blights the land. The ooze can cover wide areas such as whole Forests and devour it over a few months, then move to new areas. People must cooperate in small, tightly disciplined groups to keep watch and stay on the move, migrating and setting up camp elsewhere if necessary. One highly civilized walled city manages to keep the ooze out. But the ruler is corrupt.
An idea of a non-Red land: The land is full of kinetic energy in the air. Sudden motion can cause explosions. People move very slowly, meditate a lot, and try to do things with their mind, using the help of a style of magic that uses runic inscriptions.
Or, lava geysers burst out of the ground with very little warning. People live by warding off areas with protective runes.
I think you’re right about the flavor of the nonred world. More refining might be in order to make the red barrier more believable. Simply saying “volcanic range with fatal, random eruptions” might be a bit too unbelievable.
I also like your suggestion of how we can take a cue from the nonblack world and make the barrier not so much of a wall or a large obstacle. It can be something like you proposed, kinetic energy that strikes those who don’t meditate their movements and so on and so forth.
You remind me of the importance of how the flavor might needing to be evolved and changed alongside the mechanics as we find the perfect marriage across mechanics and civilizations as well as between flavor and mechanic. Perhaps the nonwhite faction doesn’t go underground, for example.
As for having card-type-relevant mechanics: It’s an interesting proposition. It seems like having them in a four-color set is quite synergistic if there’s ever going to be mechanics that care about card types. With that said, it feels like the focus is being taken away from the four colors. It would be split between caring about what color you’re not playing and what card type you do want to play. …And it’d be less effective considering the card types appear in the hated colors anyway! (We can’t deny blue from having creatures!)
Chah – July 7th, 2011
I’ve been trying to comment since this article came up, but I couldn’t find the right way to say it.
I really enjoy this series and look forward to updates.
I think it’s cool what you’re doing. If you can handle doing both your job and your articles at the same time, that would make you much more qualified for a game design job than writing articles alone would.
I pointed out a lot of problems, but a lot of what I said would also apply to published sets like Mirrodin Besieged or New Phyrexia. I said something like “the mechanics don’t lead to real factions that you build around, only flavor factions” But even in real sets, Living Weapon gets used by Mirran Equipment decks, and War Cry gets used by Infect decks. I also said something like colorlessness breaking the color pie, but Phyrexian Mana also does that. I do mention these points because I think they are important to consider, but they’re not necessarily dead ends, so don’t let them stop you! During the GDS2, I pointed things out that turned out to be wrong on many, many occasions.
I get the feeling that you, as a storyteller, like to present the readers with a master plan of what you’re going to do. But R&D stories are full of anecdotes where they explore a particular mechanic for months, only to find it’s a dead end and they have to find a new theme. Even the pros don’t always know what can be made to work and what can’t until they get to the stage of designing some test cards and playing with them. So don’t worry about reaching some dead ends. If you come against an unsolvable problem, that would be a good story to write about that we can all learn from. It doesn’t have to be about presenting “the answer” at that stage – you’ll have plenty to write about, such as what problems you’re currently facing, what cards you designed and what methods you attempted to try to get around it, etc.
Finally, just as you are facing your personal challenges, I have mine. I can’t say I haven’t succumbed to the urge to say, “look at what cool cards I made!” at times. During the GDS2, I saw some people who weren’t just good at analyzing the situation, or providing individual ideas, but also good at finding ways to take the project forward. It will be my personal challenge to learn to give help in the way that is most wanted.
Thanks, Chah. It’s what you said about not worrying about having a “master plan” to set forth for my readers. I was indeed afraid of running into dead ends in front of my readers. But, running into dead ends, all the work and effort that go into it leading up to that point – that’s writing material! So, this made me more bolstered to keep writing, even if it feels like I’m simply stuck with my set. Just gotta write about why I think I’m stuck. Then my readers could probably point out some directions I could go that I would never have thought of. At least, not for a very long time.
So, thanks again, for the morale boost.
Jules Robins – July 8th, 2011
I’ve been out of town, and just now am catching up on reading, so I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to comment on this before, but I’m going to echo Chah. You ought to be proud of this article series: it’s not just helping you further your dreams of Magic design, but also gives other people an opportunity to explore the same realm. The professional designers at WotC have a big leg up in that they have great designers there to train them, and only by collaborating and teaching each other what we’ve learned/discovered about design can we make something good.
And as Chah said, Wizards runs into months that have to be scrapped, and they’re working full-time for those months. We’re going to have a lot of dead ends. That said, it shouldn’t be completely on your shoulders to solve the problems. I’m pretty good at shooting holes in things, but in order to contribute better I need to help find solutions as well…
Keep doing what you’re doing. I think it’s more successful than you know.
Thanks, Jules. You’ve been a great help with contributing toward this set, just as Chah has (and, of course, the rest of you, readers. Small statements such as Jay’s that say, to paraphrase, “faction of vanilla creatures” can change the set a ton for the better. So, any kind of input you give, really, is valuable. Thanks).
Jay Treat – June 10th
I’m thinking the nothing faction is going to be impossible to actualize. Nothing’s about nothing, including Seinfeld. Why would a people even forswear “everything?”
While it’s wise to think about the creative, trying to divorce that exercise from design can only hurt your set. It’s important when considering creative options to visualize how that would work in the actual game. The peak that you give us about discarding your own hand is relevant and sounds like a faction only One with Nothing could love. A faction that can only win via combo with conditions like The Cheese Stands Alone (or whatever that’s called IRL now).
I have but one counter-offer for your sixth faction: I can imagine a supposedly utopian society that believes in perfect neutrality and moderation, such that they are against too much emotion at the same time that they are against too much rationality, instead demanding the perfect middle. This actually feels very Buddhist to me and while you needn’t model it off of that culture, just knowing that a society something like that actually exists gives us hope for creating a fictional version.
What kind of abilities and strategies would a faction of ultimate moderation leverage? Sadly, I’m not sure that’s any easier a question to ask. Maybe countermagic, discard and removal? Oh no wait, that’s for the nothingness faction. Also, those were the hallmarks of Louck’s failed sixth color.
Speaking of… while you didn’t miss the relevance of Jon Louck’s un-color mechanic to this discussion, I would suggest that if that mechanic can exist anywhere, this is the place for it. Well, thematically it is. I’m not sure how well “you must pay colorless” works in an environment full of four-color decks. Although, maaaybe that’s exactly the tension we need to keep people out of five-color decks.
Your reference to the Buddhist ways led me to propose the zen mechanic. And my zen mechanic proposal led you to suggest a faction all about (true) vanilla creatures. So, thank you, again! As for the sixth faction… I’m still thinking about it. Perhaps, if we use the vow against mechanic proposed by Chah, we can have the colorless faction make use of all the vow against cards to their advantage (whereas a faction would vow only against one color to ensure being able to make use of all four colors). As well as including a twist on vow against color: vow against all colors. Go colorless or go home. …Something, something. Good thing this is second set stuff!
Chah – June 10th – 12th, 2011
I think a Colorless faction is a tricky thing to deal with since it’s hard to give it an identity or a set of abilities.
You can’t give it an exclusive ability, if everyone accesses it. Rise of the Eldrazi found a good niche for colorless as “high-cost spells that every color can try to build up to.” Because of the very high cost, they can give Eldrazi a new ability like Annihilate without setting it up as a new color – there’s nothing to compare to that cost in other colors. If you want to do something like that, you would need another way to give it its own niche.
Also, how do you make it function as a faction with some degree of linearity?
Instead of making colorless a real faction that you build decks around, it is possible to just make it just represent a flexible type of spell that everyone can access, with different degrees of commitment. It’s like some cards in Scars of Mirrodin like Grasp of Darkness, where it has a faction watermark that doesn’t mean anything except for flavor.
But if you want to make colorlessness merely a tool to make spells flexible, I think hybrid already provides a ton of flexibility, especially in a set where people have access to 4 colors.
Colorlessness could have interesting implications if there happen to be lots of cards that hate out specific colors in the set, because the colorless cards would be immune to them. (I’m not sure if there should be lots of color hate in a multicolor set though, although maybe it could be a new style of multicolor, though with problems to work out.)
So even if you do this, it would be hard to make it an actual faction that affects how you build decks around it.
However, I think the imbue mechanic of caring about mana spent can potentially be used in many ways to reinforce a multicolor theme. I think imbue should be used on colored cards first.
For example, there could be a mechanic where a creature becomes the color of mana you spent to cast it, so it helps trigger color triggers like the changeling mechanic does for tribal.
Also, it can help promote the “2 main colors, 2 splash colors” system. For example, there can be a RG creature that enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters for each green mana you spent and deals 1 damage upon ETB for each R that you spent. Imbue can make players want to focus on a few colors as their main colors, even when they have access to four.
Imbue can also make splashing meaningful. For example, there could be a RG creature that gains extra abilities or CIP effects if you spend W or B mana.
You’ve got to make the “4-color Magic” part work before giving it a twist. If imbue appears first on colored cards and then it appears in the third set as a way to give colorless cards colored abilities, it will still feel like a twist.
By the way, I think the 2-main, 2-splash system is really important for this set.
Mark Globus talked about how they considered using either Wedge color commanders or four color commanders for Commander, and they settled on Wedges because 4-color combinations aren’t so distinct from each other.
I’ve mentioned that problem too, and it’s a major obstacle in giving the color combinations a distinct identity. (As well as not spoiling Magic by giving all decks access to almost the same set of effects.)
Your idea of giving each shard two main colors and two splash colors, instead of four main colors, is one answer to those problems. I think that’s the best direction we have so far. I think there’s a lot to figure out about what it means to play 2 main colors and 2 splash colors, especially in Standard. While it’s a common thing to splash colors in limited, in Standard you don’t splash colors, you just play them.
Finally, I’d like to mention that this isn’t so new as an idea. Sunburst is somewhat similar, and Firespout is extremely similar. I vaguely remember something in the 1st GDS talking about spells that care about the type of mana you spend. I designed the RG creature I mentioned in the previous post independently; I think many designers think about it. Maybe it can be done as a set theme, but the success lies in what interesting things you find to do with it.
(What I meant about something not being completely new pertains to imbue, not the 2-main 2-splash concept.)
Imbuing something with colorless could be interesting.
Colorless Elf (2/G)
Imbue – For each colorless mana you spent to cast this, it gets +1/+1.
Colorless Manastone 3
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
Imbue – If you spent any colorless mana to cast CARDNAME, it enters the battlefield as an artifact creature with that many +1/+1 counters on it.
This is kind of clunky, but some sort of implementation could be made that makes colorless into a faction that you actually build around, rather than a just flavor entity.
Then there could be colorless lands in each pack. But it doesn’t go as far as making a mana symbol that requires colorless mana payment as Jonathon Loucks’s set.
The Colorless Elf above should have a tap ability that produces colorless mana.
Ah, yes, I completely forgot about imbue! Though, it feels odd to have that name associated with the colorless faction. Then again, it wouldn’t be if it were the main four-color mechanic. But, what about vow against color? It feels more natural for vow against color be something that evolves into vow against all colors for the sixth faction. Ah, we’ll see. Gotta first nail down the first set’s mechanics!
And we know now that we’re going to do two central colors with two splash colors. And that Mark Globus article is riveting, since it mentioned wedge, four-color, and commander all in one article!
Chah – May 16, 2011
Even if you use the Vow mechanic above, you could still encourage 4-color play with cards like this:
Hunter Beast 3WG
Creature – Beast
1R: This turn, if CARDNAME is unblocked, you may assign its combat damage any single creature.
1U: CARDNAME gains flying until end of turn.
Prophylaxis – May 2, 2011
I love the second iteration of Underground. It’s flavorful and simple. Also, if Underground turns out to be the mechanic for this tier(pool), then I’d suggest we ditch all other mechanics.
Underground kind of works well with other cards that have Underground, and it works on its own. Maybe we’ve stumbled on a Allies-tier parasitism for the set?
First of all, congrats on writing for Red Site Wins!
Secondly, I had forgotten what my original proposition for an underground mechanic was! I see now that it’s actually terrible. Putting a permanent face up under another permanent that’s supposed to still function normally? Imagine tapping a creature to attack while it’s underneath a land that’s not tapped. Ahhhhh. With that said, it was purely a top-down flavorful mechanic as you said. I suppose exiling face down under cards is the way to go, as face-down lurk currently is.
Jay Treat – April 7, 2011
Hey Bradley, nice work laying out your plan and challenges. I’m also skeptical about the merits of a four-color block, but nothing brilliant was ever achieved from a mundane venture.
Two radical thoughts for you to consider:
The anti-mana symbol. I’m sure someone has already thought of this somewhere, so I won’t claim it’s my own invention, but it seems highly relevant to this discussion. In short, !C is a mana of any color _except_ C and a card with !C in its mana cost is every color except that one. So you can make a 1cc spell that is white, blue, black and red by making its mana cost !G.
The second is radical in an entirely different direction. What if your set isn’t four-colors-matter so much as it is simply four-colors? Like the opposite of Torment, you could make one color less common (or—as long as we’re being bold—completely absent). Perhaps, you could make black the “missing” color to make up for Torment’s abundance. Now we get to explore a world where black mana is scarce and see what that means for the creatures, lands and magic of the plane.
Just some wild thoughts to consider. Good luck with your project!
Thanks, Jay! I decided to ditch the anti-mana symbol because we weren’t do hybrid at all, and the anti-mana symbol was essentially a “super hybrid” symbol. You’re able to cast anti-mana cards with mana you’re supposed to have and have the color you’re NOT supposed to have. What a mess. I’d rather not deal with that at all, now that we’ve determine that hybrid can’t be in a four-color-matters set.
As for the second suggestion: Sounds really awesome. If I did that, we’d throw out all the work that’s been done so far. Of course, we should do it if we think this is best, but… it’s not best. Better stick with having all five colors represented. It feels like going down the “only four colors” path is just… dangerous. Much more dangerous to attempt when trying to design a top-notch set. However, your mind cranks out good ideas. Thanks for all the help so far, Jay!
Finish, I Mustard
Well, that’s the end of that. Join me next time when I dive back into progressing further designing the set. I want to thank everyone for contributing so far in this experimental column/project, and I hope that we see this through to the end (I’m planning on it)! Keep in mind that there have been some helpful contributors to this set that aren’t featured here that I actually made sure to respond back to every time they left a comment. =P So, shout out to you peeps, too. You can catch me on Twitter in the meantime!
May the four be with you,