Saturday, December 31, 2011

M13 Holiday is for Play (-testing)

This week I spent about 80 hours working on Magic design. Tweaks and swaps to the card file; printing, cutting and stickering well over custom 300 cards; reorganizing my Magic collection to find reprints (which caused me to clean the whole game room as a result); and writing a couple short theory articles. Oh and playtesting. Yesterday, three of my good Magic buddies and I spent 8+ hours doing Magic 2013 sealed and draft. At least I know I won't have a problem working long hours at Wizards some day.

I've done lots of solo testing with focused card sets since we started and I specifically tested bond (then known as terrain) with a bunch of people via precons back in September, but this is the first time we've taken the set as a whole and played the way it would be at a prerelease. I was pleasantly surprised how well it went, but found about a million ways to improve the set via real experience and the insightful comments and suggestions of my playtesters. Thanks, Brendan, Ty and Andy!

Friday, December 30, 2011

How Expensive Should Removal Be?

No great truth was ever revealed to someone who blindly accepted what his parents told him. No revolution has come on the heels of accepting the status quo. Civilization is where it is because billions of people have figured out what's good and what's not for thousands of years, yet we haven't run out of innovation, reform or progress ...and we never will.

Question everything. You'll either learn why things are the way they are or how things could be better.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More like Doom'nt Blade!

I thought I liked Doom Blade. It's a cleaner, simpler version of black's most iconic removal spell and that's got to be a good thing, right? It has recently occurred to me that no, it's not.

Terror has great flavor. It kills by scaring the life out of you, literally. It can't kill black creatures because they're too scary to be frightened like that (or too familiar with black's scare tactics). It can't kill artifacts because they have no emotions to break. And you can't regenerate from it because it doesn't destroy your body, but your mind.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

M13 Show a Little Class

Since the primary subtheme of Magic 2013 is multicolor without gold cards, it makes sense to find some way to support or reward players for playing two color decks other than Bond cards. So we're replacing the standard gammut of race lords (Elvish Archdruid et al) with class lords that can benefit creatures of multiple colors.

M13 Common Bonds

This last week or two the team made a number of Bond cards to explore the new common schema. You'll recall that we're happy with Island bond granting flying and Forest bond granting +1/+2, but we wanted to put another P/T bonus in another color and try to get deathtouch out of the equation. We made a number of different cards with Mountain bond granting +2/+0, Swamp bond lifelink or intimidate and Plains bond vigilance or first strike. These are my favorites so far.

A Fixed Mana Ritual?

From the beginning of Magic, temporary mana boosts such as Dark Ritual held a dark allure for players lusting for quick power.

These effects allow you to cast a powerful spell very early in the game, counterbalanced by the fact that you open yourself up to some blow-outs since you're spending two cards from your hand to cast one spell.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Nature's Fighters

With the new evergreen term "fight" that was introduced in Innistrad, Green gains a lot of potential to be able to battle creature threats and obstacles in a Green way.

Here, I designed some Green fighting creatures.

Friday, December 23, 2011

CCDD 122311—Humble Savior / Knight in Shining Armor

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/23/2011 White has a great shtick around saving its own creatures. Damage prevention and protection effects were the earliest expression of this, but it got interesting when Flicker introduced blink effects. Whitemane Lion (and friends) put a similar effect on creatures. With the recent addition of Fiend Hunter to white's arsenal, today's card seems inevitable.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CCDD 122211—Bellow

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/22/2011 Last week I asked my Twitter followers whether this card should be red or green. From their responses, I am convinced it should either be mono-green or red-and-white. Take a look before I get 'splainy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CCDD 122111—Return to Sender

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/21/2011 - As I was working on this card, I got a sense of Deja Vu. I was concerned that I'd already designed it. After some searching, I'm relieved to say that this it's the opposite of Feign Mana. I'm still drilling the same well that is Mana Drain's heredity, but along a more dangerous line—cheap countermagic.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: Dual-faced Cards for Time Spiral 2

In 21 Ways to Design a Card #10, I tried to explore some new ideas by breaking fundamental conventions about cards. However, it seems that most of the ideas I mentioned had already been mentioned or explored, such as in Magic designer Gregory Marque's article, as well as in other games such as Duel Masters.

In this post, I'd like to post some designs that invoke nostalgia, similar to what Time Spiral did.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CCDD 121411—False Memory

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/14/2011 - It's tempting to find new ways to use existing mechanics. A lot of that urge is healthy and results in exciting new twists that can be leveraged to great effect in second and third sets. Sometimes it's a trap. Today, I want to show you the result of such a trap and explain why it's not a great thing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

M13 A New Black Planeswalker

The team has largely agreed that the three planeswalkers introduced in Magic 2012 ought to be reprinted in 2013. Jace, Memory Adept, Chandra, the Firebrand and Garruk, Primal Hunter are all tied with a couple other cards for least printed planeswalkers of all time. Reprinting them in 2013 follows the tradition of printing a desirable core set card twice in a row to give players more time to collect and/or play with it. Elspeth is the only mono-white planeswalker not to be reprinted so far and my recent twitter poll showed a pretty dramatic preference for bringing back Elspeth, Knight-Errant rather than Elspeth Tirel. We do want to feature at least one new planeswalker and it so happens that black is in need. Liliana Vess has been overprinted and Sorin got his reprint this year. We're not going to reprint Liliana of the Veil if it doesn't extend her legality, so it's time for someone new.

Monday, December 12, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: Another Use for Transform

In continuation of my previous post, here's another use for the transform mechanic.

Once again, asking the question "What happens when a card and a spell don't have a 1:1 correspondence?" opens up a lot of potential designs.

CCDD 121211—Accelerated Growth

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/12/2011 - A lot of players have derived a lot of joy from Doubling Season since its debut in Ravnica. We'd love to reprint it, but it turns out to be broken two ways to Sunday with planeswalkers. Parallel Lives and, to a lesser extent, Doubling Chant are recent cards aimed to fill that void. Might I humbly suggest another?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Regenerate Target Mechanic

Regenerate Target Mechanic
Regenerate is one of the evergreen abilities that's been around since Alpha. It's a bit "too flavorful" as Aaron Forsythe might say and suffers from old, unintuitive templating. Even so, a lot of players love it, myself included, because it hits its note well enough and that note needs hitting. Can we re-invent it into something more streamlined and intuitive?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Brief Encyclopedia of Common Activated Abilities

I started this last year while I was working on my casual GDS2 set. I really wanted to build a wedge colored block, and the ways I wanted to show off the different color combinations involved terrain and color-costed activated abilities. Since these are relevant for anyone working on the M13 project, I thought I'd update my list and post it where other writers can use it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

M13 Designing Lair (4)

We saw a lot of solid arguments this last week and I greatly appreciate everyone's feedback. The Straight Plan is the most agreed-upon plan so we're going to proceed with that for now. We do have our eye on the possibility of replacing bond entirely with off-color activations (OCAs) so we're going to test the finished set as well as the finished set with those 10-15 cards swapped out. In particular, we're trying to get a sense of which mechanic looks and feels more natural and exciting and keep a close eye on board complexity. We'll go one way or another or possibly even switch to the Uncommon or Mixed Plan based on what we find.

Our subtitle will need to change, but let's wait until we know whether we're incorporating bond or excising it before we bother with that. For now, the goal is to complete the first draft of the entire set with bond on the straight plan and get playtesting. The core team should focus on that. If the rest of you are looking for an interesting design task to keep sharp on, please submit OCA cards here.

21 Ways to Design a Card #10: Break a Premise You Didn't Know Existed

In a my 21 Ways to Design a Card article Part 3, I talked about how you can arrive at a new mechanic by looking through a Magic rulebook. For each rule that you encounter such as "creatures tap when they attack" or "creatures can't attack the turn they were cast," you can think about a mechanic that sidesteps that rule, resulting in mechanics like vigilance or haste.

Those rules are explicitly stated, and it's easy to consciously recognize those things as rules. In this post, I'd like to talk about taking this one step further and breaking rules, premises, and conventions that are so obvious that you didn't even think about them existing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

M13 Designing Lair (3)

What I've found is that there are justifications for different choices in each category but they're all interdependent on one another. Today I'm going to try to list the different groups of choices so that we can examine the pros and cons of each group rather than the individual choices.

The Resonance of Off-color Activated Abilities

Inspired by Jay Treat mentioning a card idea for a Zombie that becomes more dangerous after walking over lava and catching fire, and comment-discussion about creatures with off-color activated abilities, I tried designing a cycle of such cards. (I'm not particularly suggesting that M13 should have off-color activated abilities.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

M13 Designing Lair (2)

I want to try to summarize some of the great proposals that were suggested in part one, but first let me suggest that perhaps we are thinking too small with lair. Right now, [landtype] Lair means "As long as you control a [landtype]..." That's been working well for us, but we should at least consider the possibility of creating a more universal ability word. By replacing the [landtype] variable with the [characteristic] variable, the ability word now handles all threshold-1 scenarios. I found 23 common creatures with this set-up and 18 non-common ones, so it may be worthwhile to find one ability word that binds them all under the same verbal concept.

M13 Is Lair Good Enough?

While discussing how best to use lair in our core set, some fundamental concerns about the mechanic have been raised. That's great and I'll tell you why. First, it means people are thinking critically which is the very thing I asked them to do and the act of such thinking implies learning. We are realizing not only features (good and bad) of lair, but also of core sets, Magic and game design in general. Second, being aware of potential flaws gives us the opportunity to address them in design or—should they prove logistically insurmountable—back up and try something else entirely.