Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CCDD 021815—Distraction

Cool Card Design of the Day
2/18/2015 - I want to share my initial reaction to Jules' decoy from Monday. Not because it's better, but it does continue in the conversation. In particular, I want to compare it to Ipaulsen's decoy, because they're so similar despite being designed without knowledge of the other.

I like a lot about this keyword. What I hate about it is how hard it is to parse.

So let me just clarify what distraction means. You attack with a Cobra-Style Student. If your opponent wants to block any of your creatures, she has to block Cobra-Style Student. Except if you made your monk unblockable, your whole team would become unblockable, so distraction only restricts creatures that have the option to block it.

Pretty simple once you get it, but that reminder text—while reasonably short—just reads like a bunch of double negatives. Ugh.

Example 1 — You attack with Cobra-Style Student and Coral Merfolk. I've got a single 1/1. I'd love to block your Piker, but I can't. I have to block the Student or nothing. I choose not to block. If I had another 1/1, I could block both.

Example 2 — You attack with Cobra-Style Student and Drifter Il-Dal. Distraction means nothing because any creatures I have that can block the Drifter can't block the Student, and vice-versa.

Example 3 — You attack with Cobra-Style Student, Coral Merfolk and Wind Drake. My Giant Spider can't block any of your creatures unless I block the Student (with my spider or anything). If your Student Leaps, my Spider's choices don't open up, but any defenders I have without flying or reach can now block your Merfolk.

It might seem odd that making it harder to block my Student made it easier to block my other creatures, but remember the flavor. It's hard to distract a defender who's not concerned with me in the first place. Besides, why would I cast Leap on my Student when I could cast it on one of the creatures I don't want to be blocked? (Actually, I'd totally do that if my Wind Drake were a Thieving Magpie and my opponent had a bunch of ground creatures but only one that can block fliers).

Found a couple ways to improve the wording.
I imagine distraction would be a solid blue-red creature keyword. It's essentially an untargeted provoke. "This must be blocked if able… or you can choose not to block anything attacking on the same level."

Now let's compare with Ipaulsen's decoy.

The reminder text on Apprentice Decoy is about the same length but so much clearer. You get it the first time you read it. And it's the same basic idea (on an identical Maritime Guard, no less). Apprentice is a bit more direct. "That creature can either block my decoy, or not at all." In addition to being easier to read, it's also easier to figure out its effect on the board state.

The downside is that you can target a creature that would never have been able to block it (like Drifter Il-Dal) to prevent that creature from blocking at all. It also has no effect on hexproof creatures. That's a little wonky, but really not so bad. Hexproof creatures are supposed to be hard to interact with (though a lot of us think it's too hard) and it's actually nice to have conditions where a mechanic gets even better than usual. Granting Apprentice Decoy Invisibility means that it can't be blocked and a creature of your choice can't block. Thematically odd, but players do love combos.

And if you really hate that idea, we can borrow some tech from my execution to clear it up.
Decoy (Whenever CARDNAME attacks, target creature that could block it can't block other creatures this turn.)
That's pretty good, no? Sure makes Goblin Marching Band look more common.


  1. Here are the same examples I used for distraction reapplied to decoy.

    Example 1 — You attack with Apprentice Decoy and Coral Merfolk. I've got a single 1/1 which you must target. I'd love to block your Piker, but I can't. I have to block the Decoy or nothing. I choose not to block. If I had another 1/1, I could block both.

    Example 2 — You attack with Apprentice Decoy and Drifter Il-Dal. My version of decoy has no effect in this situation, but Ipaulsen's version means you can obviate one of my shadowy defenders.

    Example 3 — You attack with Apprentice Decoy, Coral Merfolk and Wind Drake. You target my Giant Spider, so it can't block your Merfolk or Drake. If your Student Leaps, nothing changes.

  2. That's really interesting. By coincidence, I designed something similar on multiverse last week:

    In fact, I wonder if it could just be "whenever this creature attacks, target creature can't block other creatures this turn". Then it's somewhere between "target creature can't block" and "target creature must block this". And if you give it unblockable you get a free "can't block" -- but that's probably fine for one target creature even if it's overpowered for all defending creatures.

    I put it in red, but it could potentially be a R/U overlap maybe, which is something it would be really nice to find.

    1. PS. I love goblin marching band flavour (whether or not it's quite black border). I went with a similar "taunting" flavour.

    2. If we go with Ipaulsen's version, I'd definitely use this wording.

    3. I agree. Jay's "Can't block other creatures" wording is much better than my "unless" wording, with or without the "could block" rider.

  3. I've had the "hard to parse" problem with a mechanic almost identical to Distraction (but reversed) in my game for years. The idea is natural enough, but it sure doesn't read that way!

  4. Even in the final version of Goblin Marching Band, making it a trigger rather than a restriction opens up oddities such as casting Jump before blockers.