Wednesday, January 10, 2018

GDS3 Prep: Essay Question 4

Today's essay question comes from Jay:

4. What existing Magic mechanic would you promote to evergreen status?


  1. I'd promote two-bred mana to evergreen. That piggybacks off my comment to the earlier question about rules that need breaking by providing a grokable way to enable colored artifact designs while still keeping them distinct from enchantments. It also allows a more consistent way to mitigate some of the pressures of the mana system. For example, a rootwalla with a pump ability of (2/G)G helps mitigate the effects of being Mana short or Mana flooded depending on how heavy your commitment to green is. It also provides more flexibility for designers to push certain cards for constructed (where Mana bases are more consistent) while not necessarily overpowering those cards in limited.

    1. Honorable mention: the Doran ability

      Based on our conversation about Skulk, I was thinking about other UB creature mechanics, a long standing hole in the color pie. Based on that, Is like to see this

      Backstab (This creature assigns damage to creatures equal to its toughness rather than its power.)

      I doubt this qualifies as an "existing mechanic" considering that this a creature only variant, but I think it would lead to interesting designs and a lot of variety in UB. It also opens the possibility of exciting combat tricks in UB, which are colors that could use more variety in that area.

    2. Should twobrid be evergreen before hybrid?

      {2G}{G} is more flexible than {2}{G} and {G}{G}, but {1}{G} is easier than both. There's a space between {2}{G} and {1}{G} where {2G}{G} is better, but is that space wide significant enough to justify the use of twobrid?

      When twobrid is evergreen, does it still get reminder text?

    3. Backstab needs to be activated or triggered. As a static ability it's just a two line way to write a creature's P/T.

    4. Hybrid Mana makes sense in multicolored environments where meeting the colored Mana requirements of multicolored Mana is more of a concern, but it's hard to design for and most sets don't need that extra flexibility.

      On the other hand, all sets can appreciate the added flexibility of two-brid because They reward both mono-colored deck building and multicolored deck building depending on how they're used. There's a real difference between 1G and (2/G)G in terms of the abilities you can add to those creatures and the incentives you create. The first card is going to play the same in a deck regardless of how many colors but it runs. The second creates more options in both deck building and play. Considering how straight forward the graphic design lays out the options without adding text, I'm a big fan.

    5. Also, I don't understand your comment about Backstab. It's basically Bushido for UB, only by being a static ability it has interactions with other cards.

    6. Ohhhh, the "to creatures" portion of Backstab is not clear on the first read after you said "Doran". This is much more interesting.

    7. That's what I missed, that it only Dorans creatures. That's definitely a different animal. I'm not sure how interesting that is, but that could be left over bias from my initial misunderstanding.

    8. (Wish these were separate threads.)

      I like twobrid and want to see what it looks like on commons. I agree the best place for it seems to be where another set would want MM; We still want that card to go to players not merely splashing that color, but they can still cast it when they get color screwed.

  2. Maybe hybrid mana.
    The benefits are pretty clear: Hybrid cards reduce color screw and increase deck variety.
    The downside, as I understand it, is that we'd be turning something special into something commonplace. Gold cards used to be too special to use every set, and now they're standard. Because at uncommon they communicate two-color archetypes and at rare they sell sets. Hybrid cards can also serve a purpose at low rarities and sell sets at high rarities. Right? What am I missing?

    1. I like hybrid. The problem I see is that while gold cards define archtypes, particularly in limited, hybrid does the opposite by giving more colors the option of playing a certain effect. Sense there's less of a need to invest in a single color or strategy, limited becomes more about playing the best cards you open rather than focused game plan.

    2. I honestly think if they used the hybrid frame for gold cards starting tomorrow it'd be pure upside. Obviously that's hyperbole; but it's one of the best parts of hybrid and something that could at least be learned from.

    3. Agreed, Pasteur. Maybe make the pinstripe gold for nostalgia.

      Hybrid does do the opposite of gold, but that's useful. Gold gives direction at the cost of consistency. Hybrid gives consistency at the cost of direction. Hybrid cards should be (slightly) less powerful their mono-colored equivalents.

      Hybrid is mana fixing.

    4. Hybrid naturally calls attention to itself just with the border, and mana cost is one of the first things players look at, too. The fact that this now-evergreen mechanic calls attention to itself is a downside for an evergreen mechanic IMO, particularly when the mechanics of it don't actually affect the game once the spell is cast. As you mentioned, hybrid cards are necessarily worse than normal cards, so why have an evergreen mechanic that calls attention to worse cards and doesn't affect actual gameplay once cast?

    5. One other issue with having hybrid Mana everywhere is that it tends to lead (like other multicolor cards) to more color-pie-bleeding. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is certainly a danger to think about.

    6. I'm wary of promoting something from deciduous to evergeen. Evergeen basically means something isnt a "set mechanic" but that unlike an evergreen one, not every set needs it.

      Hybrid, like transform and Vehicles already is functioning like its evergeen its just that sets that dont need them dont have them, and unlike say flying, not every set needs them.

      Hyrbird mana is the type of effect that is very useful in multicolor sets, but just adds a bit too much "blobbyness" to a normal one

  3. Coloured artifacts. Artifacts represent the tools and trinkets used around the multiverse, the swords the amulets, the sunglasses Urza wore.

    Magics Colour pie represents the values and ideals of the colours while providing boundaries on what each colour can do. Artifacts run the risk of allowing colours to do things they can't do. Black can’t look, without smugglers copter. White can’t draw cards, without hedron archive. Green cant have flying creatures, without heart of Keiran. While sometimes this breach is not a concern it can often lead to some very broken standard environments when all decks play some artifacts to provide themselves with effects they don’t get in colour.

    Now imagine evergreen artifacts where these trinkets need a colour to tie themselves to a identity, to prevent all decks playing them, and to justify the mechanical ability. Would skull clamp have been the same card if it had cost B not 1 and said draw two cards loose two life, Smugglers copter at cost 1U.

    Now coloured artifacts has it’s issues and other proposed solutions include riders like: draw two cards if you control and island, has flying as long as was crewed by a blue creature. However none of these solutions can do it with a few (0) words as coloured mana. To a new player it also makes the game more complicated only very slightly.

    Thus Coloured Artifacts lead to less standard warping more flavourful designs that reflect not break the colour pie.

    1. I think artifacts colorless casting costs are a core part of their identity. After all, the game wants some effects available to any color, like common equipment (Cobbled Wings) or travelers amulet. If colored artifacts were evergreen, it really blurs the line between artifacts and enchantments or creatures. Instead of adding color to Mana costs, I'd focus on colored activated abilities or tribal components. Maybe it isn't that black can't get a Smugglers copter, but rather a copter can only be piloted by dwarves. That helps keep the unique parts of the types identity while avoiding the problem of color pie breaks.

    2. It's certainly true that the problem we repeatedly run into is that the colorlessness of artifacts makes them equally accessible to all decks and when they're good enough to run in one deck, they're good enough for all decks… except when they are only relevant to a specific strategy.

      So these artifacts are good:
      • Colorless artifacts we want every Limited deck to have access to, but aren't great for Constructed.
      • Colorless artifacts we want a specific strategy to have in Constructed, especially if that strategy can be implemented (differently) by multiple colors.
      • Artifacts that are strong, but access to them shows preference to a color, either via colored costs or similar conditionals.

      And these are bad:
      • Colorless artifacts every Standard deck wants to run.

    3. Having colorless be a core part of the artifact card type always struck me as a silly outlier. It makes sense with lands because they have no mana costs, but Naturalize and Disenchant for example arent considered different things.

      In a world were colored artifacts become evergreen it is natural that the enchantment/artifact mechanical split that was planned in Mirrodin should have happened. "Howling Mine shouldn’t be an artifact. It should be an enchantment. Winter Orb shouldn’t be an artifact, it should be an enchantment. That enchantments do global things that change the nature of the world. And that artifacts physically do things."
      A Green manalith wouldnt need to be colorless to delineate it from an enchantment, because an enchantment would never have that effect anyway.

      MTG as a game needs cards with generic mana costs that can fit into any deck, but marrying that strictly to being an artifact is a mistrake.

      Look at Pilgrim's Eye, it's design purpose is primarily to let all colors have access to fixing in limited. It doesnt need to be an artifact to do that. The design was made colorless and so it got the artifact typeline tacked onto it. Being an artifact is no more than a marker on Pilgrim's eye, a "weird tribal" that lets it get naturalized.

      WOTC needs to be okay with making Smuggler's Copter Blue and Panharmonicon into an enchantment.

      If you have a card you want all colors to be able to play thats fine, make it cost generic mana but dont feel forced to make in an artifact.

      If you have a killer Vehicle or Equipment design go for it, but if it should be colored dont feel like you have to have some Narnam Cobra esque work around, just make it colorled.

      Being an artifact and costing generic mana are both things MTG needs and they both should be done, and while they will overlap a lot (Crystal Ball and Manalith type effects are colorless for a reason) they should not be permanently married.

  4. Couple easy/obvious answers here, but nothing wrong with that. Mill has been on the table for keywording for a long time, Convoke has returned in a core set and is much beloved, balanced, and has design space, is flavorful. I almost offered Landfall as an option, but having an evergreen ability word doesn't seem plausible (though my mind could be easily changed). I'll go with the actual lowest hanging fruit: Flashback.

    Already almost at Evergreen status, this mechanic has returned again and again. It's proven its worth, it's proven it adds something to the game, it's begging to be ever green. Can you imagine some of the recent sets if they had Flashback? It is exceptionally clean, easy to design, easy to develop, very popular, lots of design space, easy to understand. I think it would add a lot to what the game currently has going, especially with the recent addition of spell mechanic Scry.

    The only issues against it are memory issues. Having every set care slightly about the graveyard might be a bit scary, especially if its in low quantities. But the upsides to this mechanic are so great, I think it outweighs the memory issues. Plus, it teaches new players about "exile" without being too confusing: "You get to cast it once, then you get to cast it again, then it goes away! That's exile!"