Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tesla: Promising Mechanics

In the time we've already spent designing Tesla we have come up with a truly stupendous number of mechanics to play with our progress theme and artifact focus.

This post is intended to serve as a repository of mechanics we're considering for the set. There are far too many to list, so instead similar mechanics have been collapsed down to a single exemplar: the implementation in that space that I find most promising.

The mechanics are grouped into larger categories based on the broad space they're exploring. Each one has an example common that demonstrates how we might use it in Tesla posted in the same order here. Each individual mechanic name is likewise linked to the corresponding render.

[Last Edited: 05/04/15]


  • Component (You may permanently reveal a card in your hand that costs more than this. That card costs {1} less.)
  • Mine (Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. You may put one of those cards on top of your library. Put the rest into your graveyard.)
  • Aspire N ({N}, Discard this card: Reveal the top N cards of your library. Put one with the highest cost into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library.)
  • Develop N—{COST} (Rather than cast this card from your hand, you may pay {COST} and put it into your library face up beneath the top N cards. If it reaches the top, cast it for free instead.)
  • Combine (As ~ attacks along with a OTHER PART, you may transform and join them into a single card until end of turn.)
  • Revolution (Tap N untapped permanents you control: Revolt. Once you've revolted this game, cards you control with Revolution are transformed.)
  • Potential — Whenever you cast your second spell during a turn, EFFECT.

Build on the Past

  • Modular N (This enters the battlefield with N +1/+1 counters on it. When it dies, you may put its +1/+1 counters on target artifact creature.)
  • experience with TYPE (Each TYPE card in your graveyard counts towards your experience with TYPE.)
  • progress (Your progress is the highest mana cost between this and cards in your graveyard.)
  • Refine — As an additional cost to cast ~, you may exile a card from your graveyard worth one less than it. If you do, EFFECT.
  • Shoulders of Giants <KEYWORD> (~ has KEYWORD. As long as ~ is in your graveyard, creatures you control with Shoulders of Giants have KEYWORD.)

Setting Tone

  • Board {COST} ({COST}: Target creature boards ~ and disembarks from all other vessels. Board only as a sorcery. Creatures aboard a vessel attack and block together.)
  • Soul Not Required (When equipped creature dies, if it's colored, put a 0/0 colorless Spirit token onto the battlefield, then attach this to it.)
  • Fuel (You may discard a card that costs less mana than ~. If you do, draw a card.

Awaiting Improvement

  • Geared (~ doesn't untap during your untap step. Whenever you cast an artifact spell, untap it.)
  • Update — Whenever you cast an artifact spell that is more expensive than any artifact you control, EFFECT.
  • Prominence — As long as you control the most expensive artifact, EFFECT.
  • Conductive (Copy this spell for each creature you control with +1/+1 counters on it. Each copy targets one of those creatures.)
  • advancement (Your advancement is the largest number of generic mana in the cost of a permanent you control.)
  • Harmony — SOMETHING for each color among permanents you control.
  • Industry — SOMETHING for each nonbasic land you control.
  • Hierarchy — If you control at least two creatures that cost less than ~, EFFECT.
  • Draw Up — Whenever you draw a card, EFFECT.
  • Accessible {COST} ({COST}: Access each permanent you control.)

Build Towards Something

  • Galvanize (Your artifacts can help cast this spell. Each artifact you tap while casting this spell pays for {1}.)
  • Forged (This creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each colorless mana spent to cast it. If it does, it's an artifact in addition to its other types.)
  • Upgrade (You may pay an additional 1 to cast artifact creature spells. If you do, they enter the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on them.)
  • coordinate (Add each coordinated effect from among permanents you control to this one.)
  • Build — Whenever you cast a spell that costs five or more mana, EFFECT.
  • Hoard (Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, you may exile a card from his or her graveyard as part of your hoard.)
  • Charge (Put a colorless Battery artifact token onto the battlefield with “{T}, Sacrifice this: Untap target permanent. Activate only as a sorcery.”)

Self Improvement

  • Transcend — As long as ~ has power greater than its base power, EFFECT.
  • Level Up {COST} ({COST}: Put a level counter on this. Level up only as a sorcery.)
  • Tune-Up N (Whenever ~ untaps, if there are fewer than N +1/+1 counters on it, put one on it. Otherwise, it pulses.)
  • Iterate ({1} for each +1/+1 counter on ~: Put a +1/+1 counter on ~.)
  • Sync (Whenever another artifact creature enters the battlefield under your control, if it has less power than ~ or vice versa, put a +1/+1 counter on the smaller creature.)

I will make an effort to keep this post updated as we explore new areas or tweak our mechanics, so feel free to make suggestions at any time.


05/04/14: Cleaned up wording for Develop, added Accessible to the list of mechanics.


  1. Mechanics I really like: Component, Mine, Aspire, Develop, Revolution, Monohybrid, Advancement, Industry, Build, Charge, Transcend

    Mechanics with potential but not quite there yet: Combine/Mecha, Forged, Potential, Fuel, Industry, Tune-Up, Iterate

    My comments for each mechanic follow below...

    Component: This is one of my favorites. It's clever, it's innovative, and it's resonant with our theme and desired experience. I like it a lot.

    Mine: This is interesting. Typically, this will be revealing 2 or 3 cards. This couldn't co-exist with Experience/Progress, but it's interesting and a solid 'smoothing' mechanic.

    Aspire: I love this mechanic, and I think it's another solid possibility for smoothing out a Limited format that ends up caring about big things. Let's see what we can do with it.

    Develop: I still love this as 'the fixed suspend'. Let's try simplifying the wording, since we can do that with reminder text. To steal from Warp's wording over at MTGS: "Rather than cast this from your hand, you may pay {X} and put it into your library face up beneath the top N cards. When it reaches the top, cast it without paying its mana cost."

    Combine/Mecha: This is innovative and exciting in so many ways... but I'm not convinced it really represents the direction of Tesla anymore, since we've moved away from "battles of titans", towards a world of discovery and progress. I think its ideas are worth merit thoguh, and it certainly represents the experience of anticipation and looking ahead to a great achievement.

    Revolution: This is the "new" Combine, I feel like. It takes the same spicy exotic nature of double-faced cards, and uses it in a way that much more closely aligns with the goals of Tesla as a whole. The flavor is great, the anticipation intense, and the idea unique. I think this is one of the highlights of the design so far.

    Potential: Fitting to its name, I think this idea has merit, but this feels a bit unexciting. The idea here is representing 'breakthroughs' within a turn - an explosive turn where lots of things are cast at once, which you'll be anticipating with all of your potential guys. I like the idea here - but I think this could trigger on every spell beyond the first, or something... It just feels like it's missing a certain something.

    Potential Side-note -- Going Critical: "When you cast your third spell during a turn, you've gone critical. Once you've gone critical, cards you control with Potential are transformed." A mix of Revolution and Potential. This is more win-more than even Revolution, but I think it's got some merit, no? And I do like the phrase "you've gone critical". (:

    Modular: This doesn't feel exciting enough. In addition, we're trying to make an artifact world that doesn't feel like Mirrodin, so returning a Mirrodin artifact mechanic is a no-no, in my opinion. Also, this is too narrowly suited towards artifact.

    Modular Side-Note -- The Role of Artifacts in Tesla: I have a feeling our design will want artifacts, and want them to be relevant in the set, but not want to directly call out artifacts with mechanics that much, if at all. Artifacts should be a presence - and cards should care about artifacts - but if we emphasize them too much, we'll end up straying more into Mirrodin-style "artifact set" than a modern-style "steampunk set". In addition, note that most of Mirrodin's mechanics didn't mention artifacts, but it was still undeniably THE artifact set. We don't need to call out artifacts by name to make them feel important.

    1. Experience / Progress / Refine / Shoulders of Giants: These are cool, but they have a problem... they look to the past. In Tesla, our goal is to look to the future. Yes, progress is always founded upon what came before, but that's not the fun part of progres. The fun, exciting moment of progress is the big leap, the undiscovered frontier, the never-before-seen, the cutting-edge! Our mechanics should represent that, I feel.

      Monohybrid: I think this is a cool way to draw attention to modernization and artifacts without explicitly calling them out. In addition, monohybrid has some interesting and fun synergies with cards that care about CMC, which is one of our possible mechanical themes.

      Board: I think this is interesting, but doesn't serve enough purposes in the set. We can capture the flavor of vehicles without devoting an entire mechanic to them, in my opinion.

      Soul Not Required: Again, we can capture the flavor of transhumanist technology without needing to devote an entire mechanic to it.

      Fuel: I like how this helps you cycle out your useless early game-stuff in the late game, but it feels a little narrow to serve as an entire mechanic. In addition, it pointedly says "costs less", so if we're trying to emphasize "costs more", it might accidentally undermine that. Even though, implicitly, it makes your hand filled with higher cost stuff, players will still see this and think 'I should fill my deck with stuff that costs less than this, to maximize my looting potential.' Nonetheless, despite that issue, I think this is a mechanic worth exploring some more, though we have Mine and Aspire if we really want smoothing mechanics.

      Geared: Drawback + explicit artifact call-out = not my cup of tea. I feel like this is too narrow to be particularly exciting. It would make a fine non-keyworded cycle or sub-theme, but I don't feel it deserves a keyword of its own.

      Update:: This is an interesting synthesis of two themes. I'm concerned it won't play as well as it looks, but it's definitely neat! (Though I still think we want to avoid a mechanic that's specifically all about artifacts, this one adds something more than just 'play artifacts', which is nice.)

      Prominence: This is too easily turned off by your opponent. There's a reason Ferocious keys off of 4 power, not "if you control the creature with the greatest power".

      Conductive: This forces us into a +1/+1 counter theme, and it just doesn't feel worthy of being an entire mechanic.

      Advancement: I like this better than experience/progress for a couple reasons. One, it synergizes very well with artifacts, but not too obviously. Two, it looks to the present, not the past, which is better (though still not perfect). Three, it looks at something COMPLETELY new to the game, which is SUPER cool! Four, as it doesn't look to a constant (the graveyard), it lets players interact more, and if your big advancer is removed from the battlefield somehow, you now look forward to drawing another (anticipation). Overall, I think this is a favorite of mine, and at the very least, it deserves some more exploration and fiddling.

      Advancement Side-note –Designing to the Future: Is there a way to capture the coolness of this while looking more to the future than the present?

      Harmony: This doesn't feel fitting for a set where we want to emphasize artifacts, and it doesn't particularly synergize with any of our other ideas except monohybrid I guess. I think. It is good for fostering anticipation of more colors, though.

      Industry: I like this one a lot! This a direction we have not seen before, and I think it's interesting, especially in draft. I feel this one needs a bit more work, but it has lots of potential as a mechanical direction to pursue.

    2. Hierarchy: I don't like this very much, to be honest. It just doesn't feel exciting, and it doesn't capture our experience very much at all. If we're trying to represent a steampunk-style class structure, we want something that's more obviously 'oppressive' or 'exploitative'.

      Draw Up: This is too guaranteed to really count as "awaiting". Also, we'll need to avoid the "landfall issue" - combat bonuses on your turn make the format into an aggro attack-fest.

      Galvanize: This was interesting in the beginning of Tesla, but I feel like it's not as relevant to the current design of the set. I think it's a fun mechanic and all, but not befitting where Tesla is at now.

      Forged: I love the idea of encouraging colorless mana - it's so close to "steam" after all! But this is too narrow of a way to do it. A pseudo-keyword that simply queries "did you cast colorless for me?" and occasionally also asks "how much?" seems better.

      Upgrade: This is like a wonky Extort, sorta? It feels way too narrow, and doesn't really capture any emotional experience.

      Upgrade Side-Note -- Artifact Creatures and Tesla: I think we want to avoid focusing too much on artifact creatures. When people hear "artifact creatures", they think Mirrodin or Esper. We want our artifact set to be different, and I think the best way to do that is to print more noncreature artifacts than a normal set, but keep artifact creature counts closer to normal (though still a bit more than normal).

      Coordinate: I don't see what purposes this fulfills in the set, really. It's a neat mechanic and all, and it does feel like "building up", but it's not the kind of build-up we want in the set, in my opinion. Remember, Tesla wants a different feeling of 'achievement' than Theros - Theros was about gradual achievement, and Tesla's themes of 'revolution and breakthrough' push more towards bigger achievement. Stuff like Allies, Slivers, Coordinated, etc. feel more gradual.

      Build: I like this mechanic a lot, if we're focusing on big spells. The best way to encourage people to play big spells is to reward them, after all. Since people can't play too many expensive spells in a deck, this will naturally cultivate feelings of anticipation, which is nice. Still, it's very blunt, and it's not super great at capturing the emotional experience of 'achievement', since the effect goes off often... so it's not perfect.

      Hoard: I don't like this one very much. It doesn't feel very fitting to Tesla, it doesn't particularly feel like 'building towards something', and it seems too narrow and weird to be a solid mechanic. (Could be a good guild mechanic, I guess...)

      Charge: I love Charge. It serves a lot of purposes: it can ramp to big spells, it can untap useful artifacts, and it can make creatures vigilant. All interesting uses! The fact it's an artifact can be exploited, too, which is quite nice. If we decide to go for "big spells matter", Charge seems like a must, or at the very least, it feels like a step in the right direction. Even if we don't go with that theme, Charge serves a lot of fun purposes, so I think it warrants some experimentation.

      Transcend: I was thinking about this mechanic myself, and I like it a lot. It works with Equipment and +1/+1 counters - both likely to show up in a set about progress - and it definitely rewards 'anticipation' and counts as 'building towards something'. Very nice.

      Level up: An obvious way to represent building up, but not a simple way, unfortunately. I think this is a good candidate for returning mechanic, but not a shoe-in, especially if we use DFCs.

    3. Tune-Up: I find this mechanic very interesting, but it has a lot of fiddly parts. Let's see if we can capture the cool ideas - a robot that builds itself to completion, then starts slinging spells - and refine it into something more exciting and simple.

      Iterate: I like this mechanic a lot, and I think it warrants some exploration. But it's a little bland and simple, and doesn't particularly capture any experiences.

      Sync: I dislike calling out such a narrow range of cards, and I don't think this mechanic is particularly exciting anyway.

    4. Lots of great thoughts, thanks for the thoroughness! Anything I don't address below sounded pretty spot-on to me.

      Revolution is definitely hitting some space that's worth exploring, but I think we're a little bit further from a printable mechanic than most seem to. I like the revolt being a one-and-done thing, but I'm not entirely sure the rules can handle the pre-transformation. That aside, (and as you noted), there's a lot of space to play with for the cost of this "player monstrosity" and I'm not sure that tapping a million permanents is the way to do it. At instant speed it may not feel like much of an accomplishment to sit around and revolt at eot, but as a Sorcery it would often be too risky to revolt unless you're already way ahead. I'm certainly not going to throw it away before playtesting, but I suspect we'll need a different condition.
      Going Critical is going to have some development issues that you've already mentioned, but hopefully there's something here.

      Role of Artifacts in Tesla: We should definitely try to differentiate Tesla from Esper and Mirrodin, but I don't think that necessarily means we shouldn't have an artifact mechanic. Innistrad managed Flashback without becoming Odyssey, and while we don't necessarily need to call out artifacts, I think it's too early to throw that angle out the window.

      Prominence: In discussing and playtesting Dominance (bonus for creature with greatest power), we found it to be perfectly playable and often fun, just not much of a thematic match for Tesla. I think the way Ferocious emerged had less to do with being too easy to fight, and more to do with drawing focus. The one-upsmanship is only exciting when both players are playing the game. I'm not personally in love with Prominence, but I think it could definitely work if we gave it enough focus in the environment.

      Forged: I don't really think the colorless mana matters theme has legs because it's going to steer a lot of players into disappointing or aggravating limited decks.

      Level up I don't think we ever want two different frame treatments in the same set unless they're miles better than the alternate choices for those roles.

      Iterate: I'm hoping we can make sizes in limited work out such that players are anxiously awaiting the land they need to grow their Iterate creature again and be able to attack, but I have no testing to back that up.

    5. Revolution: Agreed. I've said this myself before, though not quite as eloquently.

      Role of Artifacts in Tesla: Very good points here. I more meant we need to be careful to not have the set traverse the exact same artifact space that Mirrodin did. Hence my suggestion to pull the focus away from creatures, for example.

      Prominence: Hm, I'll trust you here, as I (of course) haven't playtested it. Do note that power is a lot easier to manipulate than CMC, so Prominence is going to play far worse than Dominance.

      Forged: That's true, and I concede that colorless probably will never work as a theme for that reason. But I think the point still stands that Forged is unnecessarily narrow if we do decide to include some colorless-matters.

      Level up: Agreed.

      Iterate: Yeah, that's the major goal of the mechanic in the set, as far as I could tell, and I do like it when it works that way. I'm just not sure how often it really does work out like that.

    6. With develops wording the reason for using "instead" is because in needs to be a replacement effect so it works mid divination. Thus the reason I use my current wording in Dreamscape:

      Using the "for free" is maybe a little casual but certainly grokable and easily replaced with "without paying its mana cost" instead if the wordiness isn't as much of an issue.

      (Rather than cast this card from your hand, you may pay [COST] and put this card into your library face up beneath the top X cards. If it reaches the top, cast it for free instead.)

    7. Excellent formatting revision!

    8. Thank you! FWIW I agree with nearly all of that.

  2. Galvanize seems like a great replacement for Affinity for Artifacts. Let's remember that for Scars of Scars of Mirrodin.

    This list is exciting.

  3. This list looks crazy fun.

    Mechanics I like:
    Develop, Revolution, Iterate, Industry, Potential, Advancement, Build.

    Also what happened to Access the Machine?

    1. I didn't have room to list everything, so I'd wrapped it up with Revolution since they came from the same place. Looking back at it, they're different enough now to deserve separate slots. I'll add it when I get a chance to make a common to link to.

  4. I can't remember now, did anyone propose a version of geared that untapped when _creatures_ enters the battlefield (or maybe, attacked, or possibly, are tapped?)? Like "Wind-up (Tap a creature you control: untap this.)"

    That has less of the geared flavour which I really like, but captures putting the effort into improving something, and gives artifacts which can naturally be important to the game and retain relevance in the longer game.

    1. I had a version all the way back in a similarly themed set I was working on before this project which triggered to untap whenever one or more creatures you control attacked. I never got a chance to test it.

  5. Mechanics which stood out to me:
    Shoulders of Giants (though I'd word it differently)
    Build (though I'd change it to 4+ mana to increase relevance)
    GALVANIZE (my favorite, by far)