Thursday, June 30, 2011

CCDD 063011—Gift Dragon

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/30/2011 - I'd been meaning to get around to making some multiplayer-centric cards in honor of the recent Commander release and today's card, Gift Dragon, is much like a creature version of the Vow cycle. Suppose you want to help your buddy to survive a bit longer or that you want to earn an ally for yourself out of an otherwise doomed player. Handing them a creature that can attack and block in the air (but can't attack you) seems like something most anyone would appreciate.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CCDD 062911—Sanguine Rider

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/29/2011 - I know sometimes it seems like I'm just throwing any old card out there to fill my daily slot, and it's true that they can't all be awesome or whatever, but I assure you, there is a good deal of dross I never burden you with. Today I didn't have any cards that I've been burning to share with you so I started looking through my to-share-eventually pile and found a lot of crap there. A lot. Those are now in a never-show-this-to-anyone-ever folder.

I kept coming back every hour or so hoping to find some new inspiration and failing. Fortunately, this last time I remembered that I came up with a card effect this morning somewhere between my second snooze and the shower. I originally envisioned it as a 1/1 so it had more room to grow, but @samstod's observation this morning about a relative dearth of solid 5-drops in constructed spurred me to see how big I could make it at that cost and to see if it would still be relevant.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

062811—Bellowing Ape

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/28/2011 - Bellowing Ape was inspired by the recent Overrun discussion and even bears a resemblance to Chah's Overwalk. Basically it's "what if Hungry Spriggan could give its attack bonus to another creature?" Bellowing Ape is plenty aggressive on its own, but as soon as you get a bigger creature out it could well be worth it to boost that creature instead for the trample advantage, which is the main point of the Ape's ability (hence the smaller P/T bonus).

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Overrun Replacement

Recently, a conversation erupted on twitter about the validity of Overrun in M12 as an uncommon. It can lead to extremely unsatisfying, uninteractive conclusions to games. I personally felt that in M10, Overrun was interesting the first 3-5 times, but then it got more and more lame. It didn't make me want to go back to M10 over and over to explore more, like I wanted to with M11, as games in M10 seemed to be ruled by a heavier dose of luck than most environments. (For example, some of the Equipment were also very strong.) In M11, Overrun was replaced by the rare card Overwhelming Stampede.

A Design Review of Magic 2012: Blue - The Kevin Bacon Color of M12

If you've heard of the game The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, or if you've just seen him in movies, you know that Kevin Bacon is an actor that can sure play a lot of roles. And that's what I think of Blue in M12. It can be the lead color for a mill deck, or a supporting color for an Aura deck. It can blend into either action-packed aggro decks, or thought-provoking control decks. It's comfortable working with Illusions, and won't let people see through them.

CCDD 062711—Cruel Gamble

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/27/2011 - Sigh. I accidentally over-wrote this post while creating a new one. You get the card and the comments but not my crappy little intro. How will we survive?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Design Review of Magic 2012: Red - The Star Color of M12

I will be doing a review of the cards revealed from Magic 2012, and this one is on the Red cards. I'd like to focus on the set's design and development aspects, as other reviews on this site have.

In M10 draft, Red was hard to play as a main color. In M11, it was the worst color. But now Red gets its time in the limelight! Red is simply on steroids in this set.

Friday, June 24, 2011

CCDD 062411—The Flipback Mechanic Gets Schooled

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/24/2011 - So, funny story: Yesterday I talked about the similarity between the flip mechanic and its cousins as well as some of the things you've got to need before you're justified in using that crazy card frame and then I showed off a cycle of cool non-permanent flip cards. While the flip mechanic gave those cards a unique identity and allowed a couple fine details to be tweaked for the benefit of the designs, there's an easier way:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CCDD 062311—The Flipback Mechanic

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/23/2011 - A couple weeks ago I was thinking about the flip mechanic from Kamigawa. Flipping falls under the same category of mechanics as split cards, modal cards (see charms and commands) and level-up cards: basically, things that can be other things. Despite their similarities there are important differences and if you design a card using one of these methods that could just as easily be designed using another method, you've almost surely stepped over the line.

For example, a split card where both sides have the same mana cost and card type might as well just be modal. So what is required to justify a flip card? There must be a way to flip it during the game or else it's a just split or level-up card. I've got some quirky flip permanents I'll show you tomorrow, but I really wanted to crack the nut that is instant/sorcery flip cards. Such spells are normally one and done, but if they're going to flip, they can't just have two sides, there has to be a way to cast both sides.

My answer is flipback:

21 Ways to Design a Card: Cards Based on Aaron's RCC #4 - #5

Here are even more cards based on Aaron's Random Card Comment of the Day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CCDD 062211—Tranquil Theurgist

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/22/2011 - At first blush, you might think of white as the purist color, but it's not. White loves stuff, both enchantments and artifacts, especially auras and equipment. White is more than happy to suit up before battle and ask for some protective blessings before a dangerous quest. Red and green, I'd argue, are the purist colors. They're each the most likely to break an artifact just for being an artifact and while they can use equipment and auras just as much as any other color, they're the colors who will consider that 'cheating' as compared with coming to the fight as you are.

Tranquil Theurgist is the man to enforce this philosophy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: More Cards Based on Aaron's Random Card Comments

I've been running an experiment of designing cards based on the perspectives provided in Aaron's Random Card Comment of the day.

(See here for the previous post.)

CCDD 062111—Craniomancer & Persuasive Doppleganger

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/21/2011 - There are 19 variants of Seasinger and 14 variants of Spawnbroker, but there are no variants of Sower of Temptation. Granted, that's not terribly surprising since it's still relatively new to the game, but it's such a simple, straight-forward effect in a sea of wordy mind-controlling dudes that I feel like there should be more. First up is the gimme: Boiling down the execution to its simplest form.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Unicorn Design

A couple weeks ago, over at Gathering Magic, MJ Scott pointed Magic's egregious lack of unicorns. To give some added context, unicorns show up slightly more often than the classic fantasy Lobster People, but far less often than the beloved fairy tale fungi. However, I'm not convinced the shortage is necessarily about gender bias in design. I'm all for designing cards to attract more female players, but I suspect unicorns never found a place in Magic because they never found a unique mechanical trope to represent them. In game design terms, tropes are the conceptual, game-play mechanics that are used as a metaphor for describing creatures, characters, or environments within the game's story. For example, gnomes are expendable artifact creatures, angels fly, demons demonize, and so forth. Without an established identity, it becomes hard to describe where an entity fits in the overall scheme of things; hence the lack of unicorns.

CCDD 062011—Jealous Thoughts & Undeniable Request

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/20/2011 - Both of these cards were created while reading Chah's article today and thinking about card/effect-specific hosers.

21 Ways to Design a Card Part 8: Design an Answer to a Card


I would like to applaud Wizards of the Coast for its epic, brave choice today, announcing to ban Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic.

There are many factors leading up to the dominance of those two cards in Standard. Some of them couldn't be helped, at least with the knowledge at the time. But one of the contributing factors that could have been avoided was the lack of general-purpose answer cards like Pithing Needle to fight problem cards.

In today's post, I'd like to discuss designing cards that answer other cards.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Announcement: Design Contest!

Welcome to the 2nd card design contest hosted by Goblin Artisans!

Design Criteria:
Select three card pairs from the following five card pairs. Create a mash-up card based on each of the card pairs you selected. To see examples of how card mash-ups work, see here, here, here, and here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

CCDD 061711—Spined Ythid & Apocalypse Harbinger

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/17/2011 - Here's the last member of my quicky monster cycle. This ability kind of rehashes the oblivion ring variant that has been mentioned twice on this site fairly recently, but it just felt extra right here and none of the other when-you-return-those-creatures effects I thought of could compete.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CCDD 061611—Mythogriff

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/16/2011 - I enjoy the idea of an illusion that disappears when you poke it ala Phantom Beast, but to put that on a big investment requires some kind of recourse. For Mythogriff, I wanted to make it an effect that has upside if you're prepared for it, but can still bite if you're not.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CCDD 061511—Nombler

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/15/2011 - Next up in my monster cycle is a green monster with a new spin on lure/provoke. Again, nothing too exciting here, but it's no slouch either.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CCDD 061411—Molten Collossus

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/14/2011 - Next up in my monster cycle is a red take on Gaea's Liege. The funny thing is I wasn't thinking of the Liege when I made it, but looking at it now, it's clearly cut from the same cloth. I'd love to add another tweak that makes it more unique, but even the simplified text is pretty voluminous. At least it's more fun to replay Molten Colossus, since the counters stick around.

What Should Removal in Green Look Like?

Inspired by Metaghost's GDS2 essay on moving pacifism-like Auras to green, I explored removal that could feel Green and not break the color pie.

Monday, June 13, 2011

CCDD 061311—Terrorgrub

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/13/2011 - When life gives you lemons, resell them in bulk. Making lemonade requires too much time and investment for the pay-off. I don't have much time this week, so I'm going to give you 5 or 6 demon/horror thingies I designed recently based on art from conceptart.org. I thought it would be interesting to make an entire cycle and see how these gnarly monsters manifested themselves in the different colors. Today, I start with black, the easiest color to make really scary monsters for:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Learning 5/5 Teach It

This week, I've got a theme: Learning. There are five steps in the process of truly learning something and I'll be discussing one each day.
Choose to Learn | Don't Take Notes | Try it Out | Play with Alternatives | Teach It

Teach It (Part 5 of 5)
My evidence for the necessity of this final step is purely empirical, but I've so much of it that I am nonetheless confident. Why there are two always, a master and a student? Because you cannot be a master without a student. Er, because you cannot a master be, a student without?

It's funny, when we are taught in school that a blacksmith must start as an apprentice and work his way to journeyman before he can graduate to being a master blacksmith himself, it's obvious why the apprentice is taking on this arduous task despite the relative shame of being somebody's bitch for a decade or so (at least, that's how I imagine most Americans feel about it), but we don't really think about the master's motivation. Is he in it for the free labor or the pride of having a voluntary slave? Probably, but perhaps the larger motivation is that taking on and training an apprentice is the final requirement in becoming a master of the art, both in social perception and in practice.

21 Ways to Design a Card: More Cards Based on R&D Articles

As I stated in the last post, card design isn't just about getting random stimulus to jolt your imagination, it's also about having insight on what makes cards good, or rather, what kind of cards make the game good. 

R&D articles can provide perspective on card designs. It could be insight about how to best balance a certain type of card, or how to facilitate a certain type of game play. (Of course, I'm not saying this kind of insight from articles can replace playtesting or feedback from various types of players; I would be missing the biggest point of those articles if I did.) But what I want to say is that reading about insights on card design is always a plus.

In this post, I tried designing some cards based on card design perspectives in Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment of the Day. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

An Alchemical Distraction

Those of you keeping track of M12 spoilers in the midst of Commander reveals and the roiling discontent surrounding Standard may have noticed a curious Green enchantment, Arachnus Web, an amusing fusion of Arrest and Domestication. Well, it just so happens that I wrote my GDS2 color-shifting essay about this very design decision, so I thought it pertinent to reprint it here and see how folks feel about Green branching out into the wide-world of Pacifism.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Learning 4/5—Play with Alternatives


This week, I've got a theme: Learning. There are five steps in the process of truly learning something and I'll be discussing one each day.
Choose to Learn | Don't Take Notes | Try it Out | Play with Alternatives | Teach It

Play with Alternatives (Part 4 of 5)
Understanding, like skill, is as much about breadth as it is about depth. Have you ever beaten a player running the best deck in the room because he doesn't know what makes it the best deck? Have you met the artist who can draw wonderfully but can't paint to save her life? Or the medic who can save a stroke victim but can't tell the difference between a cold and a flu? Serious rock climbers tend to have tiny legs while serious bicyclists tend to have tiny arms. It's not uncommon in the human quest to be the best at something that we focus so single-mindedly on it that we ignore related skills because they don't directly progress our goal.

While there is clearly marketability and merit in being that good at anything, mastering an entire discipline offers a breadth of understanding and ability that will improve all of your related skills, sometimes beyond the point you could have reached otherwise. It's for this reason that a quick-draw artist might also practice his aim, that a juggler will toss more than just balls, or a great constructed Magic player will flex his limited muscles. By learning the things outside our specialty, we gain a new perspective on our specialty and that can only benefit us.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: Part 7 — Read R&D Articles

In this series so far, I've often discussed ways to get random stimulus that sparks off free association of some kind. But once you get that stimulus, the direction in which you take that design is often guided by your understanding of what you think is good in a card.

Oftentimes, I'll look at the initial stimulus and see something that connects to a design question I've been thinking about (such as "how do I make mill spells interactive and strategic?"), or a category of fun that I want to cater to, and that guides me to the final design.

When designing cards, it's important to have this sort of perspective on what you think cards should be like.

Learning 3/5—Try it Out


This week, I've got a theme: Learning. There are five steps in the process of truly learning something and I'll be discussing one each day.
Choose to Learn | Don't Take Notes | Try it Out | Play with Alternatives | Teach It

Try it Out (Part 3 of 5)
Some ideas are easy to visualize. You can imagine how they would look and work, as well as what would happen if you actualized the idea. For example, what if I made a Lego roadster? It'd be red and blocky, and it would have wheels that spin but don't turn. I could run it around on the carpet or I could push it forward, but it couldn't turn and if it fell, it would break pretty easily but still be easy to fix. If I give a creature trample, I know that it will make very little difference on a small creature and will mitigate the value of chump-blocking for a larger creature but, unless the card has a damage trigger, not much else.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Learning 2/5—Don't Take Notes


This week, I've got a theme: Learning. There are five steps in the process of truly learning something and I'll be discussing one each day.
Choose to Learn | Don't Take Notes | Try it Out | Play with Alternatives | Teach It

Don't Take Notes (Part 2 of 5)
I remember one year in middle school (I think) when the staff took a couple days out of the regular course material to teach us all how to take notes. Those of us who had chosen to learn as much as possible, took the lesson to heart and made a serious habit of note-taking. It makes sense on the surface, write down the things you need to know so that you can study them later as much as you need. Turns out, that's not a very good way to learn.

Monday, June 6, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: Part 6 — Proverbs

Proverbs are a source of inspiration for Magic cards. I looked at a list of proverbs and designed some cards from them.

At first I intended to make this a minor episode, but I ended up with quite a few cards.

Learning 1/5 — Choose to Learn


This week, I've got a theme: Learning. There are five steps in the process of truly learning something and I'll be discussing one each day.

Choose to Learn | Don't Take Notes | Try it Out | Play with Alternatives | Teach It

Choose to Learn (Part 1 of 5)
First you must choose to learn the subject at hand. This may sound like a no-brainer, particularly for those of you who have moved past school and really only ever study things that truly interest you, but I think this is actually the biggest differentiator between the A students and the ones struggling to graduate each year. I'm going to stick to the classroom analogy for consistency but all of this applies equally to workplace training, personal betterment and improving your Magic game.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Design Born of Diagramming / Breeding a Better Limited

Limited formats (draft, sealed, and variants thereof) have long been one of the most popular ways to play Magic, as they sit in the interstice of casual and tournament interests, blending the simple pleasure of cracking packs with the skill-intensive process of card selection and spontaneous deck building. As Magic has progressed, significant care has been taken to ensure that each block brings with it a unique and balanced limited format capable of properly representing the various mechanical themes concocted by R&D. And because a successful limited format promotes the purchasing of sealed product ($$$), many of modern design's greatest lessons can be understood through the careful study of what makes a good limited format, as design's primary goal is "how do I make this a thing people want to buy?"

CCDD 060311—Mass Subjugation & Subjugator Demon

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/3/2011 - Today's card was inspired by Chah's Lord Over Kings which gives you control of all equipped creatures. That's certainly a unique effect and immediately made me think of a similar effect for enchantments that seems perhaps more obvious. Naturally, we've already got our Volition Reins and our Corrupted Consciences but what if there were a control effect in the manner of Infiltrator's Magemark and friends?

Japanese Number Cards

I've started a new blog (here) about how to play Magic the Gathering in Japanese. Only a few posts are up at the moment, but I hope to update it with new content daily.

In that blog, I use custom magic cards based on Japanese words to make them easier to remember. I'd like to re-post some cards based on Japanese numbers here.

While the card names are based on puns with Japanese numbers, I want them to stand on their own as Magic cards rather than just be memory tools. I welcome any critique and suggestions on improving these cards.

The goal is that they will be fun and balanced enough so that if anyone wanted to actually play with these cards in a cube draft that mixes real cards with fan cards, the players who aren't interested in learning Japanese would still welcome these cards' inclusion.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CCDD 060211—What If Magic Were Always Fun

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/2/2011 - Last week, Sam Stod wrote an excellent article on the importance of randomness and — more specifically — land screw in Magic. It's not the first article to take this position; Mark Rosewater and more than one developer have discussed this as well. I'm going to take a stand here and call them all wrong.

To summarize the major points supporting the other side: Randomness is necessary, land-screw allows players to beat better players occasionally, and the land system rewards better deck builders. All of those are true statements and important considerations for the game, but I claim that none of them depend on the system being as flawed as it is.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CCDD 060111—Izzet Cascade or Replicate?

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/1/2011 - I once made the claim that replicate was not the right mechanic for the Izzet guild and that cascade (had it existed at the time) would have been a much better (if not perfect) match. Recall that the goal of the Izzet mechanic was variance. While replicate does give a spell like Gigadrowse more modes (cast it once, twice, thrice...) the fact remains that it's always doing the same thing every time. Indeed, all the replicate spells end up playing like multikicker, which is just a finicky version of the standard X-spell. Cascade on the other hand always does something different. Well, except when you only run 4cc cascade spells and one spell (Blightning) that costs less. It's card advantage (which is very blue) and it's random (very red).

Chah's Musings - A Minor Point in Token Templating

During the Great Designer Search 2, Aaron Forsythe mentioned that the introduction of the Tribal type was not a great choice:
I can tell from your templates that you're thinking of using the Tribal type in the set, but I'd rather you didn't if at all possible. That mechanic, while conceived with the best intentions, is generally considered a bit of a failed experiment, and bringing it back on a couple cards in Rise of the Eldrazi probably wasn't a wise choice.