Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CCDD 032713—Mecha

Cool Card Design of the Day
3/27/2013 - Today is more about trying to visually demonstrate a really crazy idea we were discussing for Ekkremes than focusing on a particular card design. The very brief version is: What if there were dual-faced artifacts and the reverse sides combine in pairs to form a new card…and the reverse is a split so that you can combine those two cards in multiple ways?

I know that makes no sense to read, and that's why I've mocked up the back side of two such cards.

Here's one:


Here's another:


Here's how way they might look combined together:



OR:



This is crazy. We know. The question is, is it too crazy or just too crazy enough?

48 comments:

  1. What, making a set full of DFC-BFMs was too simple and boring? We have to design DFC-BFM-split cards?

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    1. Complexity is a legitimate complaint (and one I'll get to in a second), but for most players this will serve as a whole new concept, not a combination of others. As such we should be figuring out the best way to make combining cards work (including complexity considerations) regardless of what it looks like from previous sets.

      As for my complexity complaint: with normal DFCs the front of the card often gives you a pretty good idea what the back does, but there are probably going to be really hard to remember since there's no way that all of that text can be replicated on the front while still leaving room for the transform ability

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    2. My point was that an extra layer of modality on top of an already wacky concept is unnecessary complexity. Good design is as little design as possible. This is like skipping normal split cards and going straight to Who/What/Where/When/Why.

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    3. (And I believe this point would be equally relevant if DFCs and B.F.M. had never been printed.)

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    4. @jules It depends on how the cards are made. After all, if the front looks like this:

      Lightning Staff 3
      Artifact-Alpha Equipment (U)
      Equipped creature has +2/+0 and first strike.
      At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control an Beta, you may unattach this, transform and combine them
      Equip 3

      Then you might expect the back to look like this:

      Lighting Platform
      Artifact Creature-Omega
      First Strike
      Whenever Lighting Platform attacks or blocks, deal 2 damage to each creature target player controls.

      The two halves are thematically linked. And it's not really true that Innistrad's DFC are always a clear picture, Lambholt Elder or Delver of Secrets give you little indication of what they transform into from their text.

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    5. We don't have to design DFC-BFM-split cards, but it would be irresponsible not to explore the concept. Good design isn't never considering more complex options, it's exploring every option you can conceive of and then making an informed choice.

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    6. This isn't craziness for craziness's sake; choosing which side to use allows you to really feel like you're inventing an original contraption with makeshift parts, and that you're doing it to match the situation.

      (Which is why I made such a mechanic in my old post here, which I keep mentioning.
      http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/27147429/Contest_Guaranteed_to_Stretch_your_Imagination_V2?post_num=145#492735817)

      It will allow you to feel like you're tinkering, adapting to the situation like McGyver. It will give you some amount of choice about what you combine with what. It's not like "I'll combine whatever I happen to draw" and it's also not like tutoring, where you'll use the same best card every time.

      (Which is why I made such a mechanic in my old post here, which I keep mentioning.
      http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/27147429/Contest_Guaranteed_to_Stretch_your_Imagination_V2?post_num=145#492735817)

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  2. The only issue I have is in determining how the creature is handled on the battlefield. Does Unsummon return both halves? Does Shatter destroy both? If all your creatures are auras, the inherent disadvantage makes the coolness factor plummet.

    I wonder if the same concept can be handled with keywords or subtypes (admittedly, not as sweetly.).

    If the front is a full creature, could the back be a split card, choosing either the text or the power / toughness?

    Basic Mech - 4
    Artifact Creature - Mecha
    Vigilance
    Augment - Cost: Transform ~ and attach either half to an artifact you control.
    3/3
    /////
    Basic Body
    Artifact - Upgrade
    Augmented artifact untaps during each player's untap step. If the Augmented artifact leaves, the battlefield, transform ~.
    ----
    Basic Chassis
    Artifact - Upgrade
    Augmented artifact is a 3/3 artifact creature. If the Augmented leaves the battlefield, transform ~.


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    1. The "combine" text on the front explains that the combination is treated as a single card. So Unsummon returns both halves and Doom Blade kills both halves, etc.

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  3. This seems really confusing visually, not to mention much less clean than just combining two halves.

    Another thing to consider: requiring an Alpha and a Beta to make one super monster is a steep cost. Probably much steeper than most players realize. That means that the Omega sides can be extremely powerful, which makes building them more satisfying. I understand part of the benefit for doing the Halfsies design is that you don't have to jump through as many hoops, but making these creatures hard to get really ups the payoff.

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  4. I was on the fence about Omega = Alpha + Beta before and this is visually confusing. I feel like I want to take mint magic card and fold it in half just to make life easier.

    When it comes to Alpha and Beta I see the same issues as soulbound, great for constructed but a headache to build around in limited (one of a miriad of problems with AVR limited). How would you help players create Omega's in sealed pool?

    Will alpha/Beta be a special rarity of an extra card with Commons, uncommons, rares and maybe a Mythic like DFC in innistrad?

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    1. Two DFC cards in every pack, one Alpha/one Beta. They'd still have rarities like regular cards.

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    2. The possibility of up to four rares in one booster will excite some people. I just wonder whether that's enough to make Omega a via option in sealed. You'll need a high percentage of your cards to be limited playable to have enough to draw out both with resorting to tutors.

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    3. That's true. The fact that they are artifacts makes it that much easier to play them. It's also worth noting that not every sealed deck needs to play these, just like there were plenty of viable Eldrazi-less sealed decks, or werewolf-less Innistrad decks. But having 6ish in every sealed pool really lets players weigh these on the synergies within their deck, while not totally forcing people to play all 6.

      Also, the fact that we aren't actually worrying about real world collation issues means that there could be other solutions, like mixing them into packs like regular cards.

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    4. I ran some numbers, and much to my surprise, having 3 alphas and 3 betas in a 40 card deck is enough for reasonable probability of getting an omega. So I think 5 of each at common in a large set would do it.

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    5. Huh.

      Do you have your calculating in a format where you can share it? I'm curious to see how it works out.

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    6. Assume you have 40 cards, including 3 alphas and 3 betas, and you see 15 cards over the course of the game. Then the total number of possible outcomes is 40 choose 15. The number of hands with no alpha is 37 choose 15. The number with no beta is also 37 choose 15. The number with neither is 34 choose 15. By inclusion-exclusion, the number of hands with no alpha-beta pair is 2 * (37 choose 15) - (34 choose 15). To get the probability of failure, divide that number by 40 choose 15.

      Assuming I copy-pasted the numbers from the calculator correctly (which is by no means certain) then the result is about 1/2, which seems acceptable.

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    7. the trouble isn't just whether there's a chance to play them but whether there's a fair chance. If we go down the battle cruiser omega route in a format with little removal leads me to imagine match ups where players are simply playing we can draw any Alpha and Beta card and combine them first. If one player gets his 8/8 on turn five, how can the other player cope without quickly drawing out his giant robot.

      Rise introduced a lot of ideas such as level up and totem armor to help decks without Eldrazi on field survive the assault. What ideas will will Ekremes have that doesn't outplay/outshine Omega bots?

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    8. @Daniel Here are the numbers. 42% chance of failure, which I think is okay. It goes down to 26% if you have four of each.

      @Antny Yes, that is the big question. But it's certainly a solvable one; RoE managed it, and if mecha are viable, I'm confident we could too.

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    9. The chance a set with Alphas and Betas in it but doesn't include Tinker, Diabolic Tutor and Ritual of Restoration, or variants thereof seems low.

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    10. Right. I would aim mostly at Ritual of Restoration effects, so that if the omega eats a Shatter, you can get back whichever half you need to pair with your backup alpha or beta. But a Faerie Mechanist certainly wouldn't go amiss.

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    11. You could also just make them work such that if an Omega would die, you lose half and transform the other half back to what it was. That would make them a lot more resiliant.

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    12. I was thinking about that. The easiest template would probably be, "When this creature dies, choose half of it to return to your hand." But it's extra text on an already complicated mechanic; I think I'd rather just have extra beefy omegas.

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  5. Ooh! Yes, that's pretty radical, and maybe the practical problems can't be surmounted, but it's an idea which is (a) cool and (b) I think still fits within the general concept of magic.

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  6. One thing to keep in mind is that you can show someone a single DFC and they can kind of piece out how it's supposed to work. I'm looking at *two* cards you've shown me and I still can't quite figure out what I'm supposed to do with them. Can I cast this thing? Can I change its pieces around? What do I do if I have sleeves?

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    1. To be fair, I think these are supposed to have front faces that work like more normal magic cards.

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  7. I like this idea, but making it the backside of another card is just too much complexity. Honestly, this is solid on its own - if it worked more like BFM, it would definitely be more feasible. (But the two halves would be interchangeable, of course)

    As-is, double-faced + double-carded = just too much.

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    1. The nice thing about the DFC version is that the card is always playable by itself. If you happen to get another, then you can combine them. You also get to put the text that explains the combination on a side with a full text box.

      If there were a way to do this split/combine thing on single-faced cards well, that would be amazing, but I don't know how you'd tell players how it works and even if you do, I'm not sure we want a card that's literally unplayable until you draw its pair. That would let us bump up the power level even further, though, and it also eliminates the need for checklist cards and other awkward DFC byproducts.

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  8. I love the idea of BFM style Omega Mechs. This version tries to keep a similar idea, but there's no transforming, no attaching cards to each other, and no outside-the-game parts.

    Fire Mech 2/R 2/R
    Artifact Creature - Fire (C)
    Combine (Sacrifice this and another creature: Search your library for a creature card with all of the sacrificed creatures' types and put it onto the battlefield. Shuffle your library afterwards.)
    3/1

    Water Mech 2/U 2/U
    Creature - Water (C)
    Combine (reminder text)
    1/4

    Steam Mech 9
    Creature - Fire Water (U)
    Haste
    When ~ enters the battlefield, Tap all creatures with less power. They don't untap during their controllers' next untap step.
    6/4

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    1. Maybe!

      The issue I see with this is kind of like the issue with transfigured/transmute: these are usually just going to grab the one best card that fits the category. Tutor abilities lead to repetitive gameplay. That's also an issue I had with the outside the game grabbing scrap cards.

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    2. I'm imagining five different "types" (For example, fire, air, water, earth, aether), with three to four cards of each basic type, like Fire Mech and Water Mech. Five types gives you 10 combinations (Fire+Water, Fire+Air, etc.), and I would make only one card of each combination, so Steam Mech is the only Fire+Water card to search out.

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    3. Even if you had an uncommon, a rare and a mythic for each combination (which you wouldn't—that's way too many mechs), the chance that a Limited deck would have more than two is very small, and the fact that you choose the better of those two really doesn't seem like a problem. In Constructed, you'll only be running the best anyhow.

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  9. I've posted a similar idea on the You Make the Card forums before, where you build a mecha out of components, choosing from two sides of a card for each component.

    http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/27147429/Contest_Guaranteed_to_Stretch_your_Imagination_V2?post_num=145#492735817

    This one isn't immediately printable. But some of the things I want to point out is:

    Both halves of a component card should feel like it's a different side of the same thing somehow. Maybe it could be a flavor that shows how the same part is being put to a different use. Or, maybe it could be a mechanical reversing of abilities, such as "Can only be blocked by 2 or more creatures / Can block up to two creatures."

    Also, these cards are going to be risky because they get you 2-for-1ed. Maybe some of the parts can have abilities that provide protection like hexproof. But it would be better if the mech building uses "free" cards - like cards in the grave (with the flavor of combining scrap).

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    1. Really, these would be best in an environment without a ton of other artifacts. That way the artifact removal can be a bit more scarce. Like how Eldrazi were risky because they are huge mana/time investments, but the Environment made them work.

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    2. So I guess in that case the Doom Blades of the environment would say "Destroy target non-artifact creature."

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    3. You mean Go for the throat?

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    4. Something like it.
      I'm thinking of a common black "Destroy" effect, so Go for the Throat would be too strong in a set that doesn't have many artifacts except for the few buildable Mechas.

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  10. So… just regular too crazy, then? Just checking.

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    1. They sure do look like misprints, if I were a casual player opening a pack, I might be upset that my card was broken.

      I do really like how each card has both an alpha and a beta half, so you are guaranteed to be able to combine any two cards with the mechanic, even two of the same card.

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    2. I had that problem as well; I thought for some reason the images hadn't loaded right. It took me a minute to realize how it worked.

      Is there a way to make the visual aspect stronger?

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    3. I don't think it's too crazy. Only as crazy as Split cards and Dual Faced cards looked at first. There's got to be a way to make it visually look like it's meant to be that way rather than a misprint.

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    4. You can definitely make it more clearly not a misprint with some more graphic design. Replace the black border in the middle with a steampunk circuit motif, etc.

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    5. Then again, it seems flip cards failed for mostly visual reasons so we do need to be careful about that, but I still think it has lots of potential.

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    6. It's definitely dangerous territory.

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  11. Could the sideboard help?

    Example:

    Voltron Blue - 2/U 2/U 2/U
    Artifact Creature - Mecha Transformer
    Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.
    Voltron - If you have drawn three or more cards in a turn, you may transform ~ and combine ~ with a Transformer from your sideboard.
    2/4

    ///

    Big Blue
    Artifact Creature - Mecha Transformer
    Flying
    You may draw a card whenever ~ an opponent is dealt damage.
    ~ adds +2/+4 to its total power and toughness.
    */*

    In your sideboard you can either have:

    Voltron Red 2/R 2/R 2/R
    Artifact Creature - Mecha Transformer
    Haste
    Voltron - If ~ survives combat, you may transform ~ and combine ~ with a Transformer from your sideboard.
    4/1
    ////
    Big Red
    Artifact Creature - Mecha Transformer
    Whenever an opponent taps a land for mana, that player takes one damage.
    ~ contributes +4/+1 to its total power and toughness.
    */*

    Or even just a generic CMC less cards that would take the token slot in the pack. So you don't have an inherent card disadvantage for limited play, but have a real cost to play in Constructed.

    Mecha Base
    Artifact Creature - Mecha Transformer
    5/5

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    1. I can see the advantage, but sideboard-dependence seems like a major pain for casual players (who often don't even have them).

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    2. Casual players may not care for reconfiguring their decks between games, but I don't think they think Wish effects are too much of a hassle for example so it might depend on the type of effect that calls for the sideboard.

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