Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Multiple Choice Magic Design Question of the Day 10 & 11

10) Which of the following cards would raise the most red flags in a set file at common.

 a) Bog Hoodlums
 b) Amoeboid Changeling
 c) Oblivion Ring
 d) Spellstutter Sprite
 e) Consuming Bonfire
 f) Broken Ambitions

11) Which of the above cards would raise the fewest red flags in a set file at common.

Click through to see the answer and my rationale.

Bog Hoodlums has 8 lines of text, four of which are just reminder text for clash. The only uncommon term on it is CMC (again because of clash). (Clash is a mess.) Otherwise Hoodlums is fine. ~2

Amoeboid Changeling has changeling, which is a strange ability but clear enough 99% of the time. It can also grant changeling or anti-changeling to creatures, which is a little strange. And it can do that at instant speed as on-board combat trick. Though not as often dangerous as Streambed Aquitects, it can be dangerous and you'll often miss how until it's too late. It's a bit wordy. ~2.5

Oblivion Ring is too strong to be common, but it's pretty straight-forward (if you know what exile is). It's a bit wordy. ~1.5

Spellstutter Sprite proved problematic in Standard because it's a two-mana Spell Blast with a tribe-relevant Flying Men attached. It's a bit wordy, it's a 2:1 (at least a 1.5:1 if you don't value Flying Men at a full card), and it references CMC. ~3

Consuming Bonfire is modal and four lines (It would be 5 if reprinted today), but each mode is simple and fairly resonant. ~1

Broken Ambitions exceeds 5 lines before the clash reminder text, is an X spell, has clash, and features a bonus effect that's unrelated to its primary effect. ~3.5

F and D are the best answers for 10, followed by B.

E is the best answer for 11, followed by A and C.

This question challenges your understanding of New World Order and how R&D red-flags commons. To learn more about the latter, listen to MaRo's podcast and read Reuben Covington's article on the subject. This is not a topic R&D has written about in any formal or exhaustive way, and some of the criterion are pretty subjective so feel free to share your opinions below. (I 'd start flagging text length closer to 5 lines rather than 4. Also, 8 lines is clearly worse, but that's still just one flag… and R&D probably doesn't really add up flags as we did here.)


  1. Notes and answer before clicking through:

    Bog Hoodlums-- complexity issues mostly, though I assume clash (storm scale 9) is in the set. Also it's a terrible card, but I assume that isn't a red flag.

    Amoeboid Changeling-- Frankly this feels more like an uncommon. None of the abilities have any relevance in a vacuum, but once they do have relevance they probably become repeatable on-board tricks. Also, complexity.

    Oblivion Ring-- Better removal than we're supposed to see at common these days, plus an out-of-date template (cf. Banishing Light).

    Spellstutter Sprite-- Complexity (6 lines and an X). Also, NWO prefers to avoid this kind of design at common because of the feel-bad of playing it for no value. Maybe there's also a power level concern?

    Consuming Bonfire-- A weird card for sure, but probably OK under NWO. No major red flags assuming the appropriate tribal themes are in the set (though tribal is a 9 on the Storm Scale).

    Broken Ambitions-- X in the cost, and clash. Mostly this is just a complexity issue.

    For "most red flags" I'll go with C, O-ring, because there are two very clear reasons not to print it at common. For "fewest red flags" I'll go with E, Consuming Bonfire, on the theory that it presents fewer complexity issues than the other options.

  2. Power level isn't a factor for red-flagging commons, because that process is concerned with limiting complexity among the cards players will see most often.

    That said, it's one of the most important factors that could bump a common up to uncommon. I'm tempted to say that maybe any issue that can promote a card's rarity could be called a red flag, although that does affect the "No more than 20% of commons should be red-flagged" goal.

    I gave half a flag to Broken Ambitions for having a non-resonant bonus effect, above, partly because that's not one of the concerns Mark talked about warranting flags, and partly because it's not as significant a hit to complexity as other factors (but it definitely does add to comprehension complexity and the task of card memorization).

    Should that be a red flag or something else? Hmm.

    1. I see. The question's specifically referring to NWO red-flagging, then, and not to other things that might affect printability? Because O-Ring is unprintable in modern sets due to its template.

    2. You're right; its template is obsolete.

      I should swap in Banishing Light for clarity (but that screw up my all-Lorwyn aesthetic.)

      But yeah, one of things we're testing here is if the testee knows enough about NWO to know the term red-flagging is specific to that context.

    3. Don't forget about Isolation Zone. A recent common O-ring variant.

    4. Yeah, this was an excellent question, red flagging demonstrates a lot of relevant skills, but I mostly struck out on this one.

      I reckoned "red flag" referred to NWO complexity, but I wasn't sufficiently sure to be able to think about that while ignoring "this card will never be printed".

      I think O-ring does get a flag for the "come-into-play-and-bounce" interaction because that really is quite unnecessarily confusing.

      IIRC reminder text *doesn't* count toward red-flag text-length, because you only need to read it once for several cards, even though it does count against the mechanic in general.

      But even given that, I wasn't sure how to count clash. It's fairly simple for the amount of rules text. But it works against people's expectations in other ways, and is storm-scale 9.

  3. I picked Broken Ambitions for most flags - X in the cost, 8+ lines of text, and an ability that, without any resonance, is hard to remember. Amoeboid Changeling would probably be my #2.

    I like Consuming Bonfire for smoothest common. Its modal, but its modes are connected, resonant, and straightforward.

  4. (Before reading answers). Tough one for me. I went with Spellstutter Sprite. A counter on a flash creature with evasion at common is a lot. Tying it to your number of faeries is a balancing factor but also makes it too complicated and almost a build-around control card for a specific kind of deck. It feels like it should be uncommon.

    Least red flags went to the red card, Consuming Bonfire. Yes, it's a little more complex then many we'd prefer for red damage at common, but it's very easy to grasp and certainly not too powerful for it's cost.