Sunday, April 10, 2016

CCDD 041116—Alpha Designation

Cool Card Design of the Day
4/11/2016 - Join me as I iterate a design from a goal toward a keyword mechanic. My goal was to find new ways to meaningfully move an aura around.

Auras are sometimes used to represent a social status, and that's something that can change very easily within a community. A hunting pack will always follow its strongest leader (with a bit of a lag as the newly strong member overcomes their fear of the current leader to challenge them). Alpha Designation nails that flavor.

Plus hexproof since your biggest creature is usually your opponent's biggest target, and I'm not trying to exacerbate aura's 2:1 risk. Speaking of which…

Why not just address the risk of playing auras directly? That allows us to use the more thematically justified trample in place of hexproof.

That does change the flavor of the mechanic—and it's a particular loss on this card—but in so doing we get something potentially worth keywording and using on a number of cards.

By triggering off the aura dying rather than the creature, we can also mitigate the 2:1 risk during casting. (Or at least we could if this was templated correctly. Technically, an aura that fizzles never makes it to the battlefield, going to the graveyard directly from the stack.) That's another compromise in flavor terms, but again, an improvement to gameplay.

Note that both of these keywords include a mana cost so that there's a shields-down moment. That tends to be important for recursion mechanics. But it's not the only solution…

This version guarantees you get your aura back (provided you have any targets), but takes a page from bolster's book of tricks, and mitigates the power of recursion by strongly limiting where you re-use it. As a bonus, that earns us back some of the flavor we lost along the way.

Note that we are now painting a target on our biggest threat without giving it hexproof; the difference between this and our first card is that we'll get our aura back when that threat is killed, and can just promote our next biggest creature.

Note also that we long ago abandoned our original design goal. If that goal were generated late in design or development of a project as a potential solution to a real problem, we'd need to stick to it. For open-ended design such as this—and most initial game design—a goal is just something to get you thinking along new lines, and you should always be ready to abandon it in favor of more promising design space that you uncover in the process.


  1. "When this aura is put into the graveyard for a lack of enchantees…"

    That's not standard Magic-ese, but reminder text isn't rules text; it's there to remind us how things really work. The literal rules behind this would look more like

    "When this card is put into the graveyard because its target no longer exists or everything it was enchanting is no longer legal or no longer exists…"

    1. "When this enchantment would become a creature if it had bestow..."

    2. I was trying to figure out a way to give auras better value in limited by creating a simmilar mechanic. Inherit (when enchanted creature dies, return @ to the battlefield attached to target creature). This could have work with negative auras as well, like deseases...

  2. Two simple ideas:
    Cycling from graveyard - {2}, Exile this card from your graveyard: Draw a card.
    Aura-unearth - {cost}: Return this Aura onto the battlefield attached to target [thing]. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step or if it would leave the battlefield. Aura-unearth only as a sorcery.

    1. Cycling from graveyard has real potential. In some ways better and in some ways worse than cycling from hand or battlefield.

      Aura-unearth does too. If we keep it sorcery speed—and we should because instant-tricks-from-gy are dangerous—we can actually keep the keyword identical and just update the reminder text.