Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Friendship Cards

A few days ago, I posted some cards with a mechanic called Befriend.

I decided to make some more cards with the mechanic.

M13 Design Terrain

Apology. Leading a set design is hard. I'm not complaining—the challenge is fun and educational—but I am aware that my performance hasn't been flawless. For one, declaring terrain as our returning mechanic on Monday was probably a touch premature. Not for lack of confidence in that decision—I'm still convinced it's the best path to explore first—but for lack of support. Part of the lead designer's job is to sell the rest of the team on the big decisions to get their buy-in and I didn't do that as well as I should have when I should have.

I won't repeat the clarifications I made in the comments section of the last article or before, but in summary: Terrain is a valid choice for the product goals, it has serious potential as a mechanic in general, it comes with an exciting reprint with the promise of exciting new cards to follow, it forces a more custom design than exalted or provoke which in turn will result in more unique draft and play experiences, and it is the most challenging of the three paths. As you're about to read, we're going to run an experiment to verify or disprove most of those assertions.

Monday, August 29, 2011

M13 Choosing the Returning Mechanic

There are two clear front-runners for the title of 2013 returning mechanic: Exalted and Terrain (aka The Kird Ape ability). Let me briefly explain why those two have boiled to the top and then we'll discuss what happens next.

Enhance (aka The Ogre Savant Ability) is solid. It's clean and it leads to interesting deck-building and gameplay choices. While it has no flavor of its own, the abilities it grants and the way it grants them always feels right and very often has its own flavor. On the other hand, it's a bit weirder to see mana symbols on a card outside of a cost and the nail in the coffin is that terrain is just better in a lot of ways.

Key Words of Love and Friendship

On Twitter, @wrongwaygoback is making a custom card set based on twitter-submitted designs. Each weekday, he posts a card with artwork and an empty text box, and challenges tweeters to come up with a design to match it.

The set theme is Love and Hate, and this week he changed his format: He's looking for a set keyword to represent love.

There are many resonant fantasy themes for cards that form relationships with other cards, and I'd like to explore some today.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Design Review of Magic 2012: Green Commons

This is a continuation of my review of the Green cards in M12. The set may be shifting out of the spotlight soon with the coming of Innistrad, but for us amateur card designers, the lessons to be learned from M12 (and older sets) are still there.

While I call it a Design Review, it discusses Development issues as well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

M13 Envision Returning Mechanic

It's Friday and this is the fifth M13 article in as many days. I wasn't expecting to update this frequently, but as long as we're making progress at this pace, I don't intend to slow us down arbitrarily. While I won't be posting Saturday or Sunday, I do have some fun homework for everyone interested. It involves actual card design.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

M13 Returning Mechanic

Let's continue the discussion of which mechanic to bring back for 2013. This decision is going to have a huge impact not just on the overall quality of the set, but on a lot of the decisions that get made across the set. Bloodthirst didn't just get slapped on some black and red cards, it made the whole set fast, so blue and white had to adjust to keep up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Goals for M13

Magic 2010 set the highest goal we've seen for a core set—or any set—for a long time: Redefining the core set not just as an introductory product for new players or as a way to support the Standard environment by including helpful answers or utility but also as a product that experienced players can really get excited about—both to play limited and affect constructed. I don't mind speaking for all of us Magic addicts when I say that they did an amazing job and we're thankful for the effort. Mercifully, we don't have to aim that high.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Core Set Analysis for M13 (part 1)

I couldn't be more pleased with the positive response this project's announcement has received. A lot of you have volunteered to help and I'm excited to see the kind of results a team this smart and passionate can produce. Metaghost read my mind about using the wiki. As imperfect as the wiki is, this kind of collaboration is what it was built for and I can't imagine trying to funnel all your work through this site. Even the table I teased on Friday barely fits. This will be the main hub for work on the project:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Announcing a New Project: M13

GDS2 and the CCDD have taught me a lot. A lot. But the most important lesson I've taken away from them is humility. While confidence is necessary to fully pursue a dream, and if you're going to dream at all you might as well dream big, it remains that there is no warp-pipe to mastering a skill and there can be no true success without serious skill.

I forget when exactly it occurred to me (because I had to bury the idea for a while so that I could focus on polishing up board games for GenCon), but the next step in a budding Magic designer's curriculum after designing thousands of cards is not designing an expert-level expansion, much less a block. That's like a blacksmith's apprentice going directly from making nails to swords.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

M13 Index

Teaser | Announcement | Core Set Analysis | (Wiki) | Goals | (Multiverse) | Returning Mechanic 1 | Returning Mechanic 2 | Returning Mechanic 3 | Designing Terrain | Designing Terrain 2 | The Commons 1 | Bits and Pieces 1 | Bits and Pieces 2 | Playtesting Commons with Lair | Goblin's Lair | Cycle 1 (Chasm Drake) | ETB Lair? | Cycle 2 (Sunblessed Tactician) | Replacing Mind Control | What a Color Wants | Party with Top-Down | Party with Top-Down 2 | Party with Top-Down 3 | Back on Task | Playtesting has Limits | Designing Lair (1) | Is Lair Good Enough? | Designing Lair (2) | Designing Lair (3) | Designing Lair (4) | A New Black Planeswalker | Common Bonds | Show a Little Class | Holiday is for Play (-Testing) | Playtesting with Tom | White Removal | Mythic Dragon | Choosing a Mythic Dragon | Mythic Dragon Part III | Recap & Dragon | White Planeswalker | A New Development | Trajectories: Balefire Phoenix | Trajectories: Brain-Eating Zombies | Trajectories: Sirensong Rapture | Trajectories: Sultan's Lamp | Developing M13 | White Planeswalker (2) | Testing for Exploration Vs Testing for Fine-Tuning | Trajectories: The Perfect 2-Mana Counterspell | Trajectories: Wolf Dancer | Trajectories: Cursed Captain | Playing Sudoku with the Set Skeleton | Trajectories: Heat-Shimmer Djinn | Off-Color Landfall | Trajectories: Bond Questions in Progress | A Cycle of Doubling Spells | Creating the Test Skeleton | Creating the Test Skeleton 2 | Trajectories: The Final Push | Trajectories: The Finish Line | Designer Diary I II III IV V VI

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Project Teaser

Consider yourself teased.
In the nerdiest, most table-based way possible.

CCDD 081911—Avenging Paladin

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/19/2011 - The original concept for this justice-minded creature was that it could only attack a player who had attacked you during its last turn. Trouble is, any numbers big enough to warrant playing with such a downside results in a blocker that your opponent is rather less likely to attack into. Instead granting a bonus for attacking an opponent who attacked you recently gives the same basic flavor, but allows you to make an efficient little body you'd rather attack with than defend with (not unlike Benalish Veteran). Let me show you the card before I go on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

CCDD 081811—Lake Hellion

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/18/2011 - Lake Hellion came directly from the art. That's clearly a Hellion, with its tell-tale mouthy tendrils. But it's also in water, which isn't the standard hellion lair (see Crater Hellion and Volcano Hellion). In theory, everything fire needn't always be red and everything water needn't always be blue. In practice, however, there are almost no exceptions. So... a blue hellion. Sure. What would that look like?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CCDD 081711—Idyllic Castle and pay-lands

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/17/2011 - While I've played with this concept for years, I'm dead certain I'm not the only one, and probably not the first. It breaks an unspoken but fundamental rule of Magic design: Lands don't have mana costs. "Why not" is not a question—mana cost is what differentiates land from spells. "Could land have mana costs" is a question, though.

CCDD 081611—Battlehonor Knight, Bloodlust Vampire or Warfury Barbarian

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/16/2011 - Ophidian has quite the legacy. A free draw as a reward for damaging your opponent feels great and has been used by twenty-some cards since. What then would come of the same mechanic if we just replaced "player/opponent" with "creature?"

Monday, August 15, 2011

CCDD 081511—Entwine with the Arcane

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/15/2011 - Today's card is a sort of Lich meets Necropotence. Or perhaps more of a Phyrexian Arena as life choice. The name is terrible because it uses two existing mechanic words and has nothing to do with either of them, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with the card. Okay, one aspect of the wording is pretty clunky, but other than that... oh just look at the card already!

Friday, August 12, 2011

CCDD 081211—Fungal Breeder and friends

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/12/2011 - I originally wanted to make a creature that whenever you played another of the same type, they would breed and you'd get a baby token creature. Trouble is, if the token you produce is the same type as the parents, the more sensible triggers start to loop infinitely. So we have to use a different type? If only there were some precedent of one type of creature that produces tokens of another type! If only...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CCDD 081111—Condescending Wizard & Predict Folly

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/11/2011 - Designers are always on the lookout for ways to make old cards mean new things. A near-unplayable card from a core set like Shatter becomes an all-star in Mirrodin. Lord of the Unreal turns Phantasmal Dragon and friends from risky to nasty. See Beyond makes conditional sideboard cards maindeckable and solves the problem of drawing your Polymorph target.

I've been lured more than once by the idea of using a card in hand to defeat the same card played by an opponent. Predict Folly is a fairly straight-forward interpretation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

GenCon and Back Again

I took two games to GenCon with the intention of finding a publisher for them, or at the very least starting to build a presence in the hobby game industry to enable future endeavors. I'll tell you more about these games at another time (hopefully when they're scheduled for publication) because today I want to focus on some learnings about the game industry and community.

CCDD 080911—Magnesium Heartbreak

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/9/2011 - There are very few red cards that destroy a creature outright and even fewer have been printed in Modern Magic. Fissure, Cinder Cloud, and Aftershock are all old examples. Dark Temper is recent, but only mono-red in the most technical of senses. I'm not about to propose that "destroy target creature" should be added or shifted into red's color pie, but that doesn't mean there won't be some unusual exceptions from time to time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

CCDD 080811—Goblin Bangchuckers

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/8/2011 - Today I want to talk about Goblin Bangchuckers. I do intend to write about my experience at GenCon, but I want to do it right and that means later. In short, it could have gone better but it was absolutely worth the trip.

Why is a card as bad as Goblin Bangchuckers worth discussing? Because it's not the weak play value that I dislike, it's the weak design. Let me clarify before I go on: it's okay to make a card that's bad in terms of how much it helps your deck/strategy. (In fact, it's vital to the game that there be a few bad cards to give new players their first easy lesson in card evaluation.) It is not okay to design a card that no one likes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

CCDD 080511—Mermaid Lyrist

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/5/2011 - I'm in Indianapolis today for GenCon, so I prepared this installment early. If you're there, come and say hi. If not, maybe next time. Either way, wish me luck: I'm pitching a couple non-Magic related boardgame designs to publishers for the first time.

On to today's card. Alluring Siren is a gorgeous descendant of Siren's Call. Both cards evoke the classic, sailor-slaughtering mermaid trope, but the newer card is more tangible (as a creature rather than a spell) and vastly more elegant, requiring just one short sensible line of rules text. Mermaid Lyrist continues the simple, utility creature tactic of Alluring Siren, but looks to expand the trope into one of its inevitable permutations.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

CCDD 080411—Dark Riders

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/4/2011 - I'm in Indianapolis today for GenCon, so I prepared this installment early. If you're there, come and say hi. If not, maybe next time. Either way, wish me luck: I'm pitching a couple non-Magic related boardgame designs to publishers for the first time.

Back to today's card. Haste is secondary in black, meaning that it sports the keyword from time to time but never at a significant level. Dark Riders, while better than Hill Giant or, uh, Scavenging Scarab (yikes), is no less appropriate or fair a card than Crypt Ripper.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CCDD 080311—Tremor Goliath

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/3/2011 - Tremor Goliath started out very simple. Magma Giant was about due for a power-level update. A six-mana rare creature these days should be able to make a bigger impact on the board...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CCDD 080211—Deep Study & Draw from the Well

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/2/2011 - Sign in Blood is a great black card. Simple, useful, even versatile. If we can have two cards for two mana with a drawback, can we have three cards for three mana? What other kinds of drawbacks can we have for black card draw apart from causing life loss? I came to this question via the answer—which came from a top-design on this art from noah-kh (which you will notice a lot of in the last and upcoming months).

Monday, August 1, 2011

CCDD 080111—Iaido

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/1/2011 - Kindled Fury, Thunder Strike, Slaughter Cry. These are solid tricks and I'm tickled by the pattern, but if we continue the trend, Magic 2013 will bring us "Magma Shout, 3R, Instant, Target creature gets +3/+0 and gains first strike until EOT." We're going to have to break the mold. The correct answer is probably just color-shifting Lightning Blow or Guided Strike to red. For our purposes (designing new cards), the correct answer is boring. Iaido wouldn't make a core set common, but could be fun in an expansion: