Monday, September 23, 2013

Suvnica Week 14 Review, Part 1: Living in the Future (Kismi Keywords)

Kismi proved to be one of the more challenging guilds to design keywords for. Because so much of their identity is tied up in predicting the future, and because translating that into game mechanics leads to either very cumbersome rules text or unfun methods of playing, it was tricky to find a keyword that hit that sweet spot of fun, grokable, flavorful, NWO-friendly rules. Still, we came up with a number of really strong efforts here. Let's see what everyone had to say about our fortune-tellers.

Circeus' Cognition

Circeus originally had a very similar mechanic as a potential Rimid Mechanic, and decided to adapt it for the Kismi. This tweak (I renamed it since cognizance already existed in the card file) lets you dig for additional copies of the card on casting. It's a cool mechanic, but it's not really limited-viable. Not every guild keyword has to be a bomb in limited, but trying to cobble together a cognition deck is either going to require very early dedication to the task or frustrate players stuck with one copy of all of the commons. I'm also nervous about the potential for incredibly repetitive gameplay in constructed, but that's something that could be determined with some testing.

Jules' Prescient

Jules offered a mechanic that lets you scry for 1 each upkeep. He also made the clever decision to pair the keyword (at least at higher rarities) with rules text that rewards you for digging for a particular type of card. Scry naturally wants to be more in {U} than any other color, so I appreciate that the designs submitted were all {G}. Also, as I've mentioned, Kismi just really wants scry as their mechanic. This is a way to take that mechanic and still make it feel new. Bravo.

Jules also came up with a number of other keywords experimenting in a similar design space.

Foretell was submitted as a keyword, but I'm not really sure that replacement effects make sense as keywords in general. I can't think of precedent for keywording one (though I'm probably missing something obvious), and there's no appreciable benefit of having multiple cards with foretell. It's probably better off as a one-and-done mechanic. Jay Treat also pointed out that this will let you look for lands more efficiently than other types of cards, but that's not a terrible thing to allow into a green-aligned guild.

Predict lets you call a number of spells that will be cast between one of your end-of-turns until the next. This may be the spikiest mechanic I've ever seen. It's very controlling, either encouraging your opponent to not cast anything or to empty their hand prematurely to push you over the edge. There are some memory issues, particularly when multiple predicting creatures show up. I think this one may also be better as a single creature or enchantment and not necessarily as a keyword mechanic. But then again:

we might be able to squeeze a dozen or so fun designs out of this.

Fated is another predicting mechanic, this time guessing how many of your opponent's creatures are going to block. Again, it's highly controlling and manipulative, either pushing or discouraging blocks. And again, I think it's much better on a single card than as a guild mechanic.

hubatish's mod to the mechanic gives a broader range of triggers and rewards, which opens up design space, but just compounds the complexity of an already fairly complex mechanic. hubatish suggested that commons can be more grokable triggers/rewards, like with Meditating Spider, but I think that this would just confuse and infuriate too many players.

Pasteur's Divine

So, as I mentioned re: Prescient above, I don't know that replacement effects make sense as keyworded abilities since they don't work (or at least don't work intuitively) in multiples, making Divine decks trickier to build. Regardless, Divine asks you to predict whether your next draw will be land or not. I'm not sure that's the best trigger for the counters for a few reasons. It gets super mathy, with players constantly counting cards and trying to memorize the exact breakdown of their decks. This can lead to some very tedious gameplay, as well as some feel-bad moments - another example of Maro's "you can make the player do something, but if it's not fun, you've failed as a designer" rule. Also, I really wish it was a once-per-turn deal, only triggering at your first draw of the turn instead of for each - I feel like this is going to be real easy to abuse otherwise. Pasteur made a couple of alternative designs to the above cards based on the critique that you only get to replace any given card draw once, which I'm not going to rerender here. He also pointed out that given the limits on the replacement effect, threshold-style cards (divine creatures that turn "on" with the addition of a single fate counter, with no appreciable benefit from more than one counter, like Omen Glider) may make more sense than ones you want multiple fate counters on.

Jay Treat's Oracle

Oracle is an action word that lets you look at a specific card some variable depth into your library. It would likely frequently be paired with abilities that reward you for having this knowledge. The problem I have with thisis that either you need a great memory when dealing with this ability on multiple cards, or you need a pen and paper and about ten or twelve extra minutes each game, or you're going to forget and guess wrong and have a tremendous feel-bad moment.

Jay Treat's Insight

I wish I had a little more insight into the purpose of this keyword (bahdum bum pshh). I'm not sure if the owner of the exiled cards is allowed to look at them or choose, or if it's really hidden information, and I missed the window to ask Jay what his intent was since I'm lagging on these reviews by a few weeks. If the intent is the latter, then this is really just a delayed extra draw at the cost of some self milling - not exactly the most exciting keyword. If you get to ultimately choose what that last card is, I wish there was a way to keep the delay without mucking about with self-milling.

lpaulsen's Foresighted

lpaulsen wrote this out before seeing Jules' prescient ability. They're super similar, each representing a vision of the immediate future and an opportunity to reject that vision. I like them both, but I'm not a fan of the decision here to use the rejected futures (the cards sent to the graveyard) as a resource. That doesn't feel especially {G}{U} to me, and seems like it would be much more at home with the Rimid somehow. However, aside from the flavor disconnect from the guild, these are some solid designs on their own and would be great in a more Odyssey-block setting.

lpaulsen's Prophesy

I like this take on prophesy - look at the future, and possibly take advantage of it earlier. It's a nice mechanic, and makes sense on-theme. My only critique, and Jay Treat pointed this out as well, is that R&D just started putting this ability on {R} cards to expand their share of the color pie mechanics (interestingly, put in {R} as a direct result of feedback from players tuning in to Blogatog). Given that this is something they want to be pushing in {R} as a new mechanical area, I'm not sure how well it would fly in our {G}{U} guild. That said, Martial Glory and Giant Growth demonstrate that a mechanic firmly in one color's slice of the pie can show up on multicolored cards that don't even involve that color.


  1. There's nothing preventing cognition from being "cards with cognition". I chose to make it "same card" to make it more distinct from Cognizance.

    Here's another one I came up with that aims to promote guildplay and isn't a creature/permanent-only keyword (which have been WAY overrepresented in submissions IMO)

    Scry the Horizon {2}{g}
    Sorcery (C)
    Premonition (As you cast this spell, you may reveal any number of green cards from your hand.)
    Search your library for a basic land cards and put it into your hand. For each revealed card, you may search your library for an additional basic land, reveal it and put into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

    Forbidding Future {u}
    Instant (C)
    Premonition (As you cast this spell, you may reveal any number of blue cards from your hand.)
    Tap target creature. For each revealed card, tap an additional target creature.

    Arrogant Seer {1}{G}
    Creature -- Human Shaman (C)
    Premonition (As you cast this spell, you may reveal any number of green cards from your hand.)
    ~ enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each revealed cards.

    Puzzling Augury {2}{u}
    Sorcery (U)
    Premonition (As you cast this spell, you may reveal any number of blue cards from your hand.)
    Draw two cards. If you revealed two or more cards, instead draw three cards, then discard two cards.

    Bear Seer {1}{g}
    Sorcery (U)
    Premonition (As you cast this spell, you may reveal any number of green cards from your hand.)
    When ~ enters the battlefield, if you revealed two or more cards, ~ gains haste and gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

    Battleseer {3}{u}
    Creature -- Human Wizard (R)
    Premonition (As you cast this spell, you may reveal any number of blue cards from your hand.)
    ~ enters the battlefield with a fate counter on it for each revealed cards.
    At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a fate counter from ~.
    ~ can't be blocked as long as there is a fate counter on it.

    1. Premonition rewards your for keeping as large a hand as possible; IE, playing as few cards as possible.

  2. There has been a focus on creature mechanics, but that's both a natural consequence of doing flavor-driven design and appropriate for how mechanics are generally handled. Most sets have more mechanics that appear on creatures than those that are strictly instant/sorcery based. RtR block only has two mechanics that are spell-only, and cipher requires a creature to work anyway. On the other hand, the block has five mechanics (Unleash, Scavenge, Bloodrush, Battalion, Evolve) that show up exclusively on creatures, extort appears only on creatures with one exception, and populate is basically a creature mechanic. The number work out right. If/When we narrow it down to our final ten mechanics, the distribution will probably be pretty similar.

    1. I do not consider extort and populate creature mechanics. A creature mechanic, to me, is a mechanic that by its very nature can only work on creatures: it inly works if it is on a paermanent that goes into combat (Unleash, battalion), puts +1/+1 counters on itself (Unleash, Evolve), refers to its power/toughness (Evolve, Scavenge)... Extort is a mechanic that goes on permanents and cipher still remains a "spell" mechanic. However, 8 out of 10 mechanics offered in all guilds (even counting the Tezzi, where the ratio was inverted) are strictly creature mechanics.

  3. I didn't even think about the mathiness of Divine - I assumed that you usually have a pretty good idea whether you have more or less lands left in your deck, and if you need some action, you can name "land" to hedge your bets (since you'll either get a spell [yay] or the fate counter [yay]). I also assumed that making it draw-dependent would keep it a consistent simple trigger that you only have to think about at very specific times, ie not something that makes the board more complex/to interfere with NWO. If it really would entail a lot more deck-counting and decklist-checking, it's definitely out of the question, though. The idea of making it "first draw per turn", seemed like mostly a power level thing, but –

    "At the beginning of your upkeep, choose "land" or "nonland". Reveal the top card of your library. If you chose correctly, put a fate counter on this."
    This gets rid of the replacement effect and strongly rewards playing Divine-ing creatures in multiples - probably what I should have submitted from the first. It's definitely too strong with something like Prophet Protector, but that can be easily brought in line.

    1. Hmm. Some players will absolutely do the math, but only lands vs non-lands; I don't see how the exact card list factors in. A lot of players won't do the math, they'll just estimate. I'd want to playtest Divine to see how much.

  4. Soothsaying N (When ~ ETB, exile the top N cards of your library under it. At the beginning of your upkeep step, put a card exiled this way on the bottom of your library. If it's the last one, you may play it instead.)

    Keeping them all face-up adds more tension about reaching the free card, and also just feels a lot more like a prediction.

    N doesn't have to be a variable, but if it is, it's neat that low numbers are easier to use but high numbers give better results.