Monday, May 18, 2015

CCDD 051815—Salvage

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/18/2015 - Salvage is meant to iterate on one of the ideas brainstormed for Tesla: Scaling effects based on the highest CMC in your graveyard. I believe it was discarded for Tesla because we want to look forward and graveyard mechanics feel like looking back. Regardless, the mechanic has potential. My concern is that a single Entomb can max all your cards with that mechanic, which is why I'm making each use consume the card that powers it

At its simplest, all we care is whether you had a card to salvage or not. Cyberium Adopter will likely be a 2/2 for {2} on turn two, but a 3/3 later on.

You could theoretically query any quality of the salvaged card, but CMC was the inspiration for this mechanic and with good reason. We'd likely choose a common threshold across the set. My intuition says 5 is better, but I went with 4 here to match the cards milled.

We can also compare the CMC of the salvaged card to our target.

At higher rarities, we can scale directly with the salvaged card's CMC.

I included two versions of Tirefire because I'd love to hear your opinions about them. Do you prefer the cleaner, more efficient version, or the version that always has value?

There are two obvious potential tweaks to salvage. We could remove 'you may' and make it a requirement, which makes it a drawback mechanic and can make our cards more appealing, ala Skaab Ruinator. That will look good on Purgoyf and the second Tirefire, but ruins Disrupt Thought and turns Cyberium Adopter into a bit of a trap. I'm not loving that.

The other is to remove "as an additional cost to cast ~" so that you choose which card to exile as the spell resolves. That will cost you less when your spell gets countered, but it also gives opponents an opportunity to hamstring your spell by responding with graveyard-hate. It's also a lot less reminder text for sorceries and instants.

EDIT: Adding a card to show that the timing could be different for permanents than sorceries/instants, and that we can trigger off of other salvages at uncommon+.


  1. This is really interesting and feels broad enough to be a fascinating mechanic in multiple sets and settings!

    I'm concerned about the "mana in mana cost" wording, as the question I foresee is problematic: "Is {2} one mana, or two?" Mixing up mana symbols and mana amount is going to be a problem, I fear, and its one of the big issues standing in the way of "devotion to colorless". A colorless mana symbol is different than an amount of colorless mana - but looking for mana in a mana cost feels like looking for the circles, not the numbers, you know?

    Another thing I'm worried about is how we can really encourage a CMC theme at common. Scramble Aether and Disrupt Thought both feel far too wordy and complex for common.

    1. (Aside: Nothing anyone has suggested to replace "Converted Mana Cost" has made me happy. I really think Converted Mana Cost is fine, if unattractive.)

      I love everything about this. I think Cyberium Adopter is one of the most exciting and interesting Common designs I've seen in a long time.

      Also, on a personal note, I want to cast Disrupt Thought on myself so many times! (Self Mill is really a total obsession of mine, and is a theme that pops up all over my game.)

      I'm less excited by the Scavenge cards that have an "if you did scavenge" and an "if you didn't scavenge" mode because they are so wordy.

      I think there is space for some of those, but I think most cards that are going to care about the cost of the things you scavenged should just do nothing if you don't scavenge.

      I would hate to do a "sort by word count" (my personal favorite) on the commons in a set and see that it is just a big list of Scavenge cards.

      That said, I say this, but understand why you did it that way. The rules-lawyery way is to say "Deals X damage to target creature, where X is the scavenged card's cost." and if you didn't scavenge anything then X is 0. But that is pretty unworkable.

      I wonder if this is actually two different keywords. One for the awesome bear and one for something about the CMC.

      This is the very rare brain dump where I think literally every card is iteration away from printable. A+

    2. Gonna agree that I haven't seen a replacement for CMC that actually feels right. All of them have ambiguities or weird wording, so far. Redefining CMC as a term like "worth" MIGHT work to save words, but it also makes it way less clear, and another rules term to learn.

      I also agree that too many of these cards are going to be wordy (I mentioned it myself). I don't think making them dead if you have no cards in your graveyard is a good idea, though, because the modality of the card is definitely a big plus. Having that feeling of 'upgrading' is a big deal, in my opinion.

      If I was going to choose between having this care about CMC and having this 'upgrade', I would most certainly choose the latter.

    3. There's also an argument for not doing either version of Tirefire at common. The former because it's wordy and the latter because it's conditional.

    4. But Corpse Lunge was common, so does that mean the second version would be fine in isolation? But it might be a problem if other uses of the mechanic are upgrades, but this one is on/off, or if it requires a high-CMC card to work.

      In general, I like the idea, it seems like a more interesting version of delve, without some of the problems with delve. I'm not sure which version would work best, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was a very workable mechanic.

    5. The CMC problem is a very difficult one, but we certainly shouldn't give up on it. The mechanical space holds a ton of conceptually simple design space that we could access at common if new players could understand what the card says.

      The good folks in R&D are very talented, but they have a lot on their plate and very few total people. More importantly, creating terminology isn't necessarily in most of their wheelhouses. The fact that they haven't come up with a better term means it's not easy. It doesn't mean it can't be done.

  2. What is the second Tirefire supposed to say? I think you may have accidentally a word or two.

  3. I also have to say the "mana in mana cost" wording is pretty confusing (seriously, I don't know what that's supposed to mean). Aside from that, I really like the mechanic, although I don't know if it would be better or worse if slavaging was necessary.
    By the way, I don't like the name Salvage, I know enough people who use "salvage" as a synonym to "regrowth".

    1. That wording was just another attempt to replace 'converted mana cost' and has nothing to do with the mechanic. I don't care to defend it, but I will say that it's hard for enfranchised players to evaluate alternate wording for terminology we've become so accustomed to. Everything makes less sense to us because the meaning of 'converted mana cost' is so ingrained into our minds, but that says nothing about a new player's ability to interpret or learn one wording over another.

    2. I agree it's worth keeping trying variants, and that it's hard to judge what's clearer to players who aren't already familiar with CMC without asking them directly. I doubt this one is itself likely to be clearer, though it's totally worth doing an informal poll if anyone has the opportunity.

      I think it's going to be hard to beat "CMC" for all its flaws, because wizards must be looking quite hard! I wonder, maybe something like "total mana cost" or "size of the mana cost"?

  4. I could have sworn we'd previously discussed a mechanic like this for Tesla that exiled an artifact card from your graveyard as a cost. Am I making things up?

    1. If we go back far enough, I believe we did use the name 'salvage' (or very similar) to do something with artifacts in the graveyard, most likely exile. Not sure we codified it as a cost / ETB effect.

    2. We had a version that happened whenever the permanent became tapped and briefly discussed the additional cost version. We've never looked at it as an etb trigger.

  5. Even for the etb version, I'd prefer an "as ~ enters the battlefield" wording rather than a trigger. It closes the awkward window for removal to stop you from getting your etb effect that Exploit has. (Exploit had to have that window so a creature can exploit itself, but there's no such restriction here).

  6. I had a similar idea but used a variable to indicate how mnay cards to exile. otherwise it seems to easy to kick for the bigger effect.

    now thinking about even more, add a phrase after keyword for more variety.

    Savlage a card.
    Salvage two cards.
    Salvage a land card.
    Salvage two artifact cards.

    1. Salvage a card with CMC 4+.

      Moving the conditional up with the keyword might actually save us a lot of words after all is said and done. What I particularly like about that is the simplest salvages will appear at common with reminder text, whereas the more complex salvages will appear at higher rarity where we can sometimes omit the reminder text, helping to balance text usage.

      This also helps us to be more consistent in the phrasing of the triggered ability. It's now always "If you salvaged, [effect]."


  7. Even tough i would tweak some cards... I love it!