Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tesla: Charged with Battery

We've been looking at potential artifact mechanics for Tesla, and last week saw a lot of good ideas. I've given some thoughts in the comments, so today I'm going to focus in on one idea I found particularly interesting: Bass' Batteries.

One Size Fits All

This little bauble may not look like much, but it actually has a lot going for it. The simplest application is its interaction with one of these.


Batteries slot into a similar space to Eldrazi Spawn and Gold tokens in that they deliver one-time mana to allow players to either cast expensive spells or build up for one big turn. Eldrazi Spawn deliver colorless mana, Gold gives you any kind, and Batteries give you more of what you already have. Slightly different space, but it doesn't sound like enough to warrant a whole new mechanic.

But there's a reason we've seen Eldrazi Spawn as a major part of a set, but not Gold (and I don't think we will anytime soon). The difference is that Spawn add more gameplay value: They block; they make enters-the-battlefield and death triggers; they attack (with a little help); they blank lifelink damage. And there's more if you delve deeper. A lot of cards interact with creatures. And the reason we're on this topic is that Batteries have similar range. Targeting a creature after attacking grants a sort of psuedo-Vigilance.


Lands aren't the only cards with repeatable tap abilities.


Untapping an opponent's creature enables a potential blocker (especially relevant in multiplayer variants).


Some cards care about untapping.


Or being untapped.


Batteries can even interact with your opponents' removal.


And there are plenty more. Batteries are artifacts, which might matter if we have a mechanic like Metalcraft; they enable Gravestorm. I could go on. But before we get too excited there's another point to address.

Tailor Made

How do we put them onto the battlefield in the first place? We have three basic options, of which we'll probably want a mix.

Add them as a bonus to spells like Scry:


Offer them as a reward for jumping through hoops:


Or allow them to build up consistently over time:


No matter the approach, our biggest hurdle is clear: Batteries make for some text-laden cards. Our best bet would probably be to bundle that up into a keyword action so it's clear where one effect ends and players don't need to read through it every time. Unfortunately, I don't see a way around the associated up-front comprehension complexity.


What are your thoughts on Battery? Am I missing a major flaw? Is it a good fit for Tesla? Does it excite you?

If you're a Johnny the answer to that last question is probably "yes." Regardless of your own psychographic membership, we all need to design for everyone. This week's challenge is to design a card for Tesla that Johnny would be excited to play with Batteries. Bonus points for submitting commons.

56 comments:

  1. I get that "only as a sorcery" is meant to reduce board complexity (e.g. for having blockers available), but it doesn't do very much as far as I can tell. I'd much rather see that text removed so that cards creating Battery tokens read more simply.

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    1. With that caveat, I do like the Battery idea a lot, and I like the direction it would take the set in.

      As far as a design goes... whatever Johnny is planning to do with his Battery tokens, he's likely to want a way to convert them into mana at some point. Let's help him out with that.

      Natural Resources G
      Enchantment- Aura (Common)
      Enchant land you control
      Whenever enchanted land becomes tapped, add {1} to your mana pool.

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    2. Natural Resources is exactly what I was hoping to see: a simple card that makes sense on its own but plays nicely with Batteries.

      As for the Sorcery speed thing. I have a really hard time imagining we get even close to NWO compliant with instant speed Batteries. Unexpected blockers, unknown amounts of available mana in a set likely to be rife with activated abilities, and the potential to increase the board complexity of higher rarity cards that already tap to affect the board at instant speed is just too much.

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  2. I realy like it, but only as an instant ability. It is more of a tension of what you want to do with your charge. Make sure there are enough tap abilities in the set to really make it shine, otherwise it is just to much of a gimmick.

    Personly I like the Keyword better then the tekst.

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  3. I'm thinking up some fun commons for the Johnny challenge, but real quick, here's a template that shortens the token text without harming complexity (too much). Plus I added that the token is colorless.

    Put a colorless artifact token named Battery onto the battlefield. It has "Sacrifice this artifact: If it's your turn, untap target permanent."

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    1. I strongly approve of this template.

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    2. Aha, nice take. I definitely think it needs to not allow "surprise" blockers if this is to go on commons, but that's a nice tweak that ends up much shorter words-wise.

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    3. Clever.

      I still think the mechanic warrants playtesting completely unrestricted; that adds significantly to board complexity, but if batteries are going to be a big deal in the set, it might be worth it.

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    4. I'm with AlexC. On-board tricks as a set mechanic are just not NWO-friendly.

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    5. I'm with Havelock on NWO (see above), but I'd love shorter text. The "only your turn" restriction might be enough, but this could just as easily be "your main phase" without adding much text and avoiding a fair amount of board complexity.

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    6. I don't agree with this and I'm just reporting, BUT, phases have only been mentioned twice on Commons in Modern legal sets (on Sakura-Tribe Springcaller and Stonehorn Dignitary). Both times I would argue it was essential to do so. What are we avoiding with "your main phase" that we would get with "your turn"? On board combat tricks? We can control those with design. Access to more mana than the opponent thought? We've had Voyaging Satyr in Standard for the past year and it's been pretty easy to comprehend. I would guess batteries will always be thought of by an opponent as potential mana sources. Especially if that's predominately how they're used in practice.

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    7. It's clear that restricting batteries to sorcery-speed is drastically more NWO-friendly. What I'm suggesting is that it would be irresponsible to design a set with them and *never*once* test them without that limit, because it is the simpler, more intuitive design. It would cost a lot of complexity points to use instant-untap, but they've used complexity points on crazy things like bestow and DFCs; the question is whether it's worth the _gameplay_. Almost certainly, it's not, and we want to limit them. As long as Tesla is entirely theoretical, running with that assumption is fine, but if we actually design and develop the set, we've got to test it the other way. Assuming isn't good enough for real design.

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    8. I'm okay with testing them once at instant speed, but I don't agree with your premise. There are far too many permutations of most mechanics to try in limited design time, especially given that we don't even start out being sure about what mechanical space we should work with. It's our responsibility to determine what has a decent chance of working before testing and eliminating the rest so we have time to come up with something great. That said, I think Batteries show a lot of promise, so it's worthwhile to allocate a bit more of our time to investigating their potential forms.

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    9. I really like the template fix.

      There's also probably something to consider with "untap target permanent you control". It might be counterintuitive to let it untap anything, but the "If it's your turn" text probably solves any problems this has.

      I think Battery, with that wording, would take up less space than Eldrazi Spawn.

      An alternative that may make it less wordy, would be to make them counters players get (like poison); "You get a battery counter. (You can spend a battery counter in your turn to untap target permanent.)" By removing all the "colorless token artifact", it's less wordy. But then it isn't an artifact, which may or may not matter.

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    10. I don't hate player counters, but they're harder to track. I don't really want to switch to them just for text length.

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    11. Again, I show my bias toward designing better rather designing faster. Totally fair to say that with a limited development window, we can go with our intuition and not test everything, and skipping instant batteries is 100% reasonable from that perspective.

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    12. Just for the sake of discussion, what do you think of this template:

      Put a colorless Battery artifact token onto the battlefield. It has "Sacrifice this artifact on your turn: Untap target permanent."

      Delete
    13. You can't put "on your turn" on the left side of the colon. That side can only have costs.

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    14. It's still a cost... that you can only pay on your turn. :-)

      Not sure how serious I am about this, but it's at least plausible as an alternative template.

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    15. It would be a significant change to Magic templating to make timing restrictions part of the cost. As it stands right now, "on your turn" can't be on the left side. Think of it this way, if the template you're thinking of were possible, Hell's Caretaker would be:

      T, Sacrifice a creature on your upkeep: Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.

      instead of:

      T, Sacrifice a creature: Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.

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    16. Wow, that's so much better. How has this not come up before?
      I greatly prefer this new Hell's Caretaker. Not only is it more succinct, but it makes sense for restrictions to activation to appear on the cost-half.

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    17. Agreed wholeheartedly. This is my favorite template yet.

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    18. That is an excellent template.

      Just checking how it looks in other cases...

      Cinderhaze Wretch
      {T} during your turn: Target player discards a card.

      Ainok Bond-Kin
      Outlast {1}{W} ({1}{W}, {T} as a sorcery: Put a +1/+1 counter on this creature.)

      Leonin Bola
      Equip {1} ({1} as a sorcery: Attach to target creature you control.)

      The Cinderhaze Wretch seems fine, but I'm less convinced by it inside reminder text for some reason.

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    19. Lol. I'm not fer it, I'm a'gin it. I don't think we should be suggesting changes to templating for no reason. This change in particular is all or nothing, Some abilities have extremely long and complex timing restrictions or conditional restrictions. Putting those restrictions up front will only make them more complicated to understand. Just my two cents.

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    20. I think it's worth the change, but for a recent example of what Nich's talking about: Ancient Hellkite.

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    21. I like it too. "T during your upkeep", "T only when attacking" makes sense.

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    22. If Ancient Hellkite is attacking, {R}: Ancient Hellkite deals 1 damage to target creature defending player controls.

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  4. Maybe "untap target artifact or land" so we're not plugging batteries into a Craw Wurm? Is granting vigilance to your biggest creature something we want out of this? That seems so much better than other potential uses...

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    1. I'm fine with only untapping artifact creatures.

      "Untap target colorless permanent?"

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    2. I prefer "artifact or land" because it's more specific. That makes it easier to digest, and helps players who don't know that lands are colorless.

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    3. I'd be fine with "artifact or land," but I'm not sure the creatures are an inherent problem. There are plenty of boards where granting your biggest creature Vigilance does next to nothing. I suppose it depends just how many batteries are being generated; we don't want the board completely dominated by one big creature too often.

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    4. @HavelockV I'm not sure the restriction is worth it since we will most likely have giant artifact creatures, mechs or otherwise, in the set. Besides, giving one of Green's big common creatures vigilance is a reward I don't mind giving players for commiting to the color in draft. And we can always include checks and balances in the design file.

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    5. Sure, but I want to highlight those mechs by making them untappable with batteries. That makes them a priori distinct from other big creatures and creates synergy between the set's major mechanics.

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    6. One could argue that granting *every* color vigilance is a pretty serious color bleed for a block.

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    7. HaV, you make a fun point. "Artifact or Land" even works with colored Mechs, should we go that direction.

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    8. Fair point, Jay. It seems fine in white, blue and green, but I'm not sure the mana production isn't kosher for white. Perhaps just a {gu} mechanic

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  5. Alley Picker (Common)
    2R
    Creature - Goblin Rogue
    2/2
    R, T, Discard a card: Draw a card.

    Scrapper Prince (Uncommon)
    4R
    Creature - Giant Artificer
    3/3
    R, Sacrifice an artifact, T: Return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.

    Circuit Breaker (Rare)
    2RR
    Creature - Human Spellshaper
    2/2
    2R, Discard a card, T: Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn.

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    1. I'm not 100% convinced Scrapper Prince should be mono red (despite Trash for Treasure), but these all look like a lot of fun with Batteries!

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    2. I don't really care which color it fits best with. I was just enamored of the idea that batteries could both provide an artifact for Scrapper Prince to sac, or untap it for an extra activation if able. Out of curiousity, which color would you put "Sacrifice an artifact: Return an artifact card from graveyard to hand."? White?

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    3. I think "Sacrifice an artifact" is a red trigger, so I could see it as either a mono red or red-white multicolored.

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    4. Scrapper Prince should probably be rare though. Repeated recursion is too strong for uncommon.

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  6. So strange to see 'Token' as a supertype printed on tokens (silently [re-]introduced in M15, apparently), but it *is* a characteristic of all tokens, so why not make that explicit? Huh.

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    1. It caught me by surprise to see it in M15, but I agree it's a good thing to print. I have some of the old MPR tokens that had it on before, Pentavite and suchlike, and back in the day I was disappointed when I saw that the tokens in booster packs didn't have it on there. My only sadness now is that my huge stack of tokens will be even more inconsistent going forward.

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  7. Magnetic Scepter {3}
    Artifact (unc)
    {3}, {T}: Target creature must attack or block this turn.

    Paralytic Scepter {3}
    Artifact (unc)
    {2}, {T}: Tap target creature.

    Despotic Scepter {3}
    Artifact (unc)
    {1}, {T}: Target player loses 1 life.

    Hermetic Scepter {3}
    Artifact (unc)
    {X}, {T}: Gain X life.

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    1. Not that it's too strong, per se, but Hermetic Scepter could make for some pretty unfun limited games that drag on forever. I'd like to see it with a small fixed value or pushed up to rare. In a similar vein, I'd bet Paralytic Scepter proves to be more fun costing 3 to activate.

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  8. Rusted Juggernaut {4}
    Artifact Creature-Juggernaut (cmn)
    CARDNAME must attack each turn if able.
    CARDNAME doesn't untap during your untap step.
    4/4

    Inspired Sentinel {5}
    Artifact Creature-Construct (unc)
    CARDNAME ETB tapped.
    Whenever CARDNAME becomes untapped, it gains haste and trample until EOT.
    5/3

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    1. Clearly these ones are a little more out there. I could see both being fun, but there's some question as to where to draw the cutoff for cards making you say "huh?" These could be made to make sense on their own, but if we want them to be clear calls to Johnny, Juggernaut should move out of common. We don't want to overload all the other players with cards they don't understand, so these generally show up at rare. (e.g. One with Nothing, Donate)

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    2. Rusted Juggernaut {3}
      Artifact Creature-Juggernaut (unc)
      CARDNAME must attack each turn if able.
      CARDNAME doesn't untap during your untap step unless you pay {5}.
      5/5

      Inspired Sentinel {4}
      Artifact Creature-Construct (cmn)
      Whenever CARDNAME becomes untapped, it gets +2/+2 and gains trample until EOT.
      3/3

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    3. That last one is o-p; call it {5} or something.

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    4. I'd be happy to print these versions.

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  9. What's better than charging up once? Doing it again!
    Nut Hoarder 2G
    Creature - Elf Artificer (U)
    1, T: Charge.

    Also, an obvious Timmy card:
    Common Colossus 8
    Artifact Creature - Golem (C)
    8/8

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    1. These are nice and simple and look like fun. One potential piece to think about is if we want a card as big as Common Colossus to be vanilla at common. Even with the incentive of Annihilator, Ulamog's Crusher needed a "must attack" clause to break board stalls. Giving this something like "Whenever ~ doesn't attack during your attack step, tap it." would allow for occasional defense with Batteries, but encourage players to attack.

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    2. On second thought, that seems to offer very little benefit for the added comprehension complexity compared with the Crusher version.

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  10. Glad my idea had some traction. :)

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