Tuesday, May 14, 2013

CCDD 051413—Twin

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/14/2013 - Today is about a keyword, Twin, which is (yet another) variant of kicker. When you cast a card with twin, you can turn another card in your hand into a copy of it and cast it for free. Where most kicker effects act as mana sinks—giving your extra land meaning in the late game—twin acts as a card sink, trading useless cards (like extra land) for upgraded effects.

That serves a very different purpose and I'm not entirely sure what kind of set would call for a card sink rather than a mana sink. If you've got ideas where this would be more useful or less useful, let me know in the comments.








The biggest disadvantage that I saw with twin is that literally doubling an effect is useful on a limited category of effects. Doubling Day of Judgment or Cancel wouldn't be very interesting at all. Tune in tomorrow, when I talk about a similar mechanic with more flexibility.

In the meantime, what do you think of twin?

28 comments:

  1. Twin seems like it would fit well in a block that had abilities that work from the graveyard (flashback, unearth, scavenge, etc.)

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  2. I'm totally stealing this for a guild mechanic when we start doing those in Suvnica...

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  3. One of the biggest problems I see is that players don't like giving up their crads (this is why many less experienced players overvalue mill). The fact that the bonus doesn't care which card you discard makes pitching anything other than the absolute worst card in your deck feel bad.

    The other issue is that there's rarely an actual choice as to twin your spells. If you have useless cards you always do, if you have a minor (cheap) effect you don't unless your cards are almost worthless, and if you have something powerful (expensive, removal, etc.) You always twin.

    On top of that, there's still the kicker issue where you don't want to lose value by casting an untwinned spell.

    It may be possible to circumvent these pitfalls, but they certainly present additional hurdles. All that said, I think getting an "extra" spell is enough fun that we should keep looking at this space and see if we can do better than Conspire.

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    1. I feel like your first paragraph and your second paragraph contradict each other. Apart from that, I think all your points and concerns are valid.

      I would hope the Kavu Titan effect is lessened here since you know you'll have to discard a card for the doubling and that cost will never change. I could see a player holding one of these until they've got a 'bad' card to discard to it, though. We could specify 'nonland' to get around that, but then we lose a lot of the value of the mechanic.

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    2. Jules concern about the choice to use Twin is why I think it works best on cards that are conditionally good (e.g., land search, discard, flicker, artifact destruction). If you have no artifacts, I'll gladly discard my "Twin Shatter" to double up on "Twin Sorrows" and take out your last two cards in hand.

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    3. Twin will shine in a set with narrow cards that you'll sometimes want to discard. The twin cards themselves don't have to be narrow, but making them narrow certainly makes playing them together inherently smoother.

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    4. That's a good point. Some of the early discussion for Athambia Academy revolved around different schools of magic that relied on Enchantments, or Artifacts, or instants/sorceries, or the graveyard, etc. That's a setting that could benefit from a number of narrow answer cards, and the Twin mechanic would make sure that those narrow cards were never completely dead.

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    5. @Jay: Looking back at the paragraphs they certainly do look contradictory: that's because my mindset changed completely between them. Some players will get really turned-off by having to ditch cards, but the experienced players who aren't won't be presented with an interesting enough choice. I agree that they're rarely both concerns for the same player.

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    6. Is the choice to twin or not really any different than kicker (or any of its variants)? If you can't pay the cost for the kicked effect, you don't. If you can and it's great, you do. If you can and it's not worth it, you don't. Kicker, multikicker, entwine, fuse, buyback, etc. Right?

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  4. Twin might also be interesting on modal cards. It's not quite "entwine - discard a card" because it also allows you to pick the same mode twice if you so desire.

    Twin Tactics (common)
    1W
    Instant
    Twin
    Choose one - Target attacking creature deals no damage in combat this turn, or target blocking creature gets +7/+7 until end of turn.

    Twin Research (common)
    1U
    Instant
    Twin
    Choose one - draw a card, or scry 4.

    Twin Trap (common)
    1B
    Instant
    Twin
    Choose one - Target creature's power becomes 0 until end of turn; or target creature gains deathtouch until end of turn.

    Twin Initiative (common)
    1R
    Instant
    Twin
    Choose one - Target creature gets +2/+0 until end of turn; or target creature gets first strike until end of turn.

    Twin Harvest (common)
    1G
    Instant
    Twin
    Choose one - search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand, then shuffle your library; or you may play an additional land card this turn.

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    1. I like what you're going for. As written, Twin doesn't let you choose new modes, but we could totally rewrite it.

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    2. Awesome. It might be too texty combined with the reminder text, but I still think it's a cool idea.

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  5. I love the simplicity, but... I don't know if it's fun? There's something off about it. It seems like... Retrace you can do it multiple times, so this isn't exciting?

    What if it were more like cycling, in that you chucked the card with twin to copy something else? So it becomes more modular?

    Double up [cost] ([cost], Discard this card: Copy target spell.)

    Actually, no. That would be bonkers.

    Maybe Twin is fine, and it's one of those mechanics that "reads ugly" but plays fun (like Unleash or Exalted). I have a soft spot for anything NWO, and Twin is one of those nice, elegant mechanics that always works the same.

    I dunno.

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    1. The comparison to Retrace is apt, though. Twin really only has one benefit over Retrace, that the second spell is free to cast. (And you can discard nonland cards too, but that's marginal)

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  6. I think that Jules raised a few valid points. Personally, I have enough trouble when players ask me to take a look at their decks at FNM and I help them get rid of bad cards. it would be even tougher if there was a mechanic that almost encouraged the inclusion of bad cards. I know that experienced deck builders won't have trouble with this but I could easily see someone looking at their pool during deck and thinking "gee, I've got a lot of twin spells, maybe I should include these decidedly bad cards do that I can pitch them."

    Maybe I'm over analyzing this? Can't tell. It does feel like retrace outclasses this by quite a bit. Players recognize that topdecking a land is bad but this is less clear.

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    1. I strongly doubt players will actively search for bad cards to include because of twin, though they will definitely consider maindeck cards much narrower than normal. I would argue Twin might actually be a boon for new players, mitigating the impact of their weak choices and demonstrating which cards in their deck aren't holding up at the same time.

      Certainly, testing would be critical and could reveal anything.

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  7. I would also like to point out that Twin Paths seems really really powerful.

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  8. I don't consider it a major issue that only some types of spells work with twin. This is also true of overload and cipher in Ravnica block alone, and to some extent it is true of flashback. One way to ensure that twin has plenty of design space would be to enable it to go on creatures (e.g. by making Call of the Herd-type cards).

    I also feel like "copy this spell" as part of a mechanic is a under-explored area of design space. That's probably because Storm is the best-known mechanic in this area, and people are afraid enough of making something similarly broken that they avoid designing cards that seem like it.

    So I definitely like the concept for Twin, but I think there's room for additional development to distinguish it from other mechanics. As currently designed, the mechanic is basically Replicate- Discard a card or Retrace with more limitations. I realize that this kind of objection applies to other mechanics (e.g. kicker and anything), but if you're going to the rules trouble of copying a spell, it feels like there should be a good reason for it.

    Some random ideas for variations on Twin:
    Twin- When you cast ~, if it had at least [some number] legal targets, copy it and choose another target for the copy. (Pretty narrow but potentially fun.)
    Twin- When you cast ~, copy it for each opponent you have beyond the first. (Something to print in Commander sets maybe?)
    Twin- If this spell is countered after being cast from your hand, copy it. (Probably won't come up too much since players will just avoid countering it and won't bounce or use removal on the target, but I like how this makes combat tricks better.)

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    1. I'm not sure I get the first Twin variant. If you've got a lot of targets, you get one more?

      The second one sounds like a more complex version of this template: "Each opponent loses 2 life. You gain that much life."

      The last one sounds like a byzantine "Can't be countered."

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    2. You're totally right about the last two variants. The first one was meant as "if you have at least X choices of what to target", not "if you have at least X targets". Not sure how this could best be templated. Here's an example card:

      Shatter Blast
      {1}{R}
      Instant
      Destroy target artifact you don't control.
      Twin (When you cast this, if you had 3 or more choices of what to target, copy this and choose a new target for the copy.)

      What I like about this approach is that it actually makes copying a spell meaningful by giving it new targets, rather than just doubling the effect that you get.

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    3. My concern with this version is that it's only marginally different from "Destroy all artifacts you don't control" and that difference is neither resonant nor particularly compelling from a gameplay standpoint. I can destroy 1 artifact or 3+, but never 2?

      Overload seems like the better implementation.

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    4. The twin effect only happens when you cast it, not when it's copied. So you get at most 2 copies of the spell, not 3+. Unless I'm missing some rules strangeness?

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  9. I love this idea, but is the fact that you cannot choose new targets for the copy on purpose?

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    1. It is. I was trying to go for a pure doubling of whatever you were already doing.

      That said, I'm not remotely married to that choice.

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  10. This mechanic is cool in a nifty, flexible way, kind of like cycling. I like how the abilities make sense in both modes.

    Another approach is to make the copy choose new targets, and to create some kind of condition about what you can discard to feel cool in a powerful-effect-with-a-hoop way. Maybe it could require discarding a card of the same CMC, etc. (which I'm sure you must have thought of.)

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    1. There are a bunch of variations we could explore. I just made the simplest version I could. No way to know which is best until we try them, preferably in the context of the set they'd live in.

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  11. Be careful about the wording of the card. The Twin ability, as it stands, would allow you to copy the card multiple times. Basically you could copy and discard your whole hand on that one card. You may want to say something like "When you cast ___, you may discard a card. If you do, copy the effects of ___."

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    1. Ah, but copying a card is not casting it.

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