Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tesla: Uncommon Sense

Hi everybody! Last week, we started finalizing the uncommons in Tesla. This week, I want to review some of my favorite uncommon designs from the Multiverse so far, and discuss how they embody some great 'roles' that uncommons should fulfill.

First off, uncommons are usually reserved for cards that are slightly more complicated than commons. "X" is a classic example; it's too confusing for many players to appear at common, but it's such a valuable design tool that it's almost guaranteed to show up at uncommon. Punish Transgression is a great example of an "X" spell that's valuable and exciting at any point in the game.

While 'base power and toughness' is slightly unusual wording, it's doable at common, yet Limit Overflow is definitely an uncommon. Much like Punish Transgression, confusion is the key here - yet in this case, it's due to unusual rules interactions involving layers and setting power and toughness and what not, alongside changing types. Things like this are best at uncommon. Limit Overflow is a nice take on the classic Ensoul Artifact design, and a good exploration of blue's design space. I love that kind of unusual twist on a usual card!

Oppressive gameplay is something designers should strive to avoid as much as possible, but it's still important for Magic to have some amount of recursion and repetition, because it's simply valuable design space. Zombify effects are exciting for many players, but also create some grueling gameplay, as the opponent is forced to take care of your bomb twice. Necrogenic Experiment has a cool twist that either recoups some mana, or lets the creature enter untapped to block or attack. Again, a great twist on a usual design.

While Extract Essence has a very similar design to Necrogenic Experiment, they are very different kinds of uncommons, oriented towards very different players. Uncommon is often where we want to put more pushed designs, such as removal, that would simply be too good at common. Power level variation is vital to creating a Limited format that isn't mentally exhausting, and undeniably good removal like Extract Essence is important to have - but at common, it takes over the format a bit too much. This design is elegant in its simplicity, a trait that's important to have in a design! My only worry is that instant-speed Canisters could be confusing.

Pushed power level at uncommon also means we can accrue more card advantage in our cards. Chain Combustion can destroy two creatures with just three mana - which is a lot of card advantage! This design at common would be very good. At uncommon, it's just right! Chain Combustion is a very beautiful solution to the problem of having lots of Thopters running around in the format, and it's one of my favorite red cards in the set because of that.

Uncommon is also important for signposting the set's archetypes. I've discussed the nuances of archetypes in a few recent articles, but one thing that I really need to emphasize is that archetypes should be clear to players. If they start picking cards in a pair of colors, they should start getting a sense of what that pair does. Munitions Maker is a very explicit signpost for the +1/+1 counters archetype once you start seeing other cards, but it's an excellent design because it's also simply good in a vacuum, an exciting design that immediately gets people thinking. The "each creature" part in the activated ability, however, is a clear indicator to look for more +1/+1 counter cards. This subtle indicator of an archetype is an excellent quality to have in an uncommon.

Lastly, exciting buildarounds are fun at uncommon. These also appear at rare, but if you want them to be a bit more consistent in a draft - whether because they're particularly interesting, or particularly suited to the set's themes - then you should definitely put them at uncommon. This design is based on one from Lorado, a set by Shadowcentaur, and the second I saw it I knew I wanted it in Tesla. It plays very differently in both sets, but it will also be super exciting in both, I'm sure!.

So, here we can see seven things uncommons let us do in a set: be a little more complicated; be a little weirder; be a little more repetitive; be a little more powerful; be a little more advantageous; be a good signal; and be a good build-around.

Hopefully that gives you all some good inspiration for uncommons for Tesla! Again, you can check out what we have over at the Multiverse. 

Until next time, have a good week!