Wednesday, September 12, 2018

CCDD 091218—Ever Vigilant

Cool Card Design of the Day
How kosher is it to grant a keyword to all your creatures, but first reward all your creatures that already have that keyword?

Walk with me.

Okay, so Ever Vigilant isn't technically granting vigilance here or even looking for it, but the base case is trivial: "Creatures you control with [keyword] get +1/+1; The rest gain it." Let's talk about that first. It's not complex or confusing, but it is more complex than "Creatures you control get +1/+1 and [keyword]." That text is elegant, but doesn't reward building around that keyword the way a card like Favorable Winds does. Levitation is a great effect, but makes you feel like you've wasted effort when your team is mostly Wind Drakes. That's where this angle comes in.

Favorable Winds and Levitation are both ongoing effects, where this idea can't be. Either because layers break it or because it's not clear that they don't. So cards in this vein must be one-time effects as we see above.* I couldn't compare it to any similar cards because they don't exist. Never has a Magic card giving +1/+1 until EOT to all the creatures with a specific keyword. The reason is partly that keyword-tribal is a relatively new concept in the game, but primarily that it's too narrow of an effect to warrant a card. This idea, however, broadens the scope of something like Skyshaper so that it's not wasted on your already-airborne troops.

But is it worth the extra words and complication over that most elegant version? I'm not sure. At least, I'm not sure the flying version is. Because of the way we're forced to simulate vigilance rather than granting it outright, those rough edges give us a touch more to sink our teeth into: You can play Ever Vigilant before you attack to give all your creatures +1/+1 but forgo the vigilance; or you can do the obvious thing and attack with everyone, untap your non-vigilant creatures and boost your vigilant ones; or you can attack with some creatures and leave others back to set up a different trap for your opponent (or bluff one).

6 comments:

  1. From a new player perspective, I think it would feel counter-intuitive. I understand what you're trying to do, but without the explicit "creatures with X ability get a bonus, creatures without it get X ability", it looks like a confusing version of Rallying Roar that actually plays much worse in defence than what new players would expect because the order of the two effects matters and they are arranged here in an unusual way.
    I think vigilance is a sub-optimal example for this approach, because it matters most in attack but the card you made sounds like it should be used on defence as well. First strike is maybe a more obvious example (perhaps too obvious) of something that I think would work better.

    Redoubled Efforts {WR}{WR}{WR}
    Instant
    Creatures you control with first strike gain double strike until end of turn, then other creatures you control gain first strike until end of turn.

    To improve the card you made, I would suggest two changes:
    1. Say 'attacking untapped creatures', which means vigilance most commonly but also interacts with other effects.
    2. Put a 'then' between the two clauses, to emphasise that the first action comes before the second one.

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  2. I expect that there might be memory issues with the one in the article, as once the creatures without +1/+1 get untapped, there’s nothing distinguishing the ones that got the temporary boost from the ones that didn’t. An easy solution would be to bump the mana cost and have it grant +1/+1 counters (which also solves the “this cant be a permanent stat boost” problem).

    I think this idea with keywords is a huge indication of untapped design space around calling out specific keywords.

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    1. Oh yeah. That asterisk was supposed to lead to +1/+1 counters. Yup.

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  3. Wild to me that "Untapped creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn" and "Until end of turn, untapped creatures you control get +1/+1" might render identical or completely different effects, and I don't know for absolute sure whether they do.

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    1. I believe the latter can boost a creature that untaps later (but also will un-boost something the moment it taps). Yeah, that difference is dangerous.

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  4. I think the lesson so far of cards like Path of Mettle (insofar as there are lessons to learn as yet) is that if you're going to start delving into "combat keywords matter" space you need to clearly signal players to look at them beyond the keywords when deck-building. Path of Mettle very obviously did that and it was crafted to make sure that players in limited/draft were likely to have enough creatures that fit the card's demands.

    So looking at your card agnostically without knowing what kind of set it would go in I would assume it would have the typical small array of accessible vigilance creatures mostly in white (but maybe one green) and would recommend leaving the vigilance reference off it to grant it versatility in use.

    But if you maybe were to sit down to design a set and decide "Hey, we want players to really focus on drafting creatures with combat keywords when they end up in red and white (or green and white in this case)" and then start designing a set with cards like Path of Mettle to specifically push the players there, then I think it could work.

    I actually hope WotC tries that with a set because it's hard to get me interested in R/W design space and Path of Mettle actually did (to the point of inspiring a submission!). They could have done it with Boros in this new Ravnica set now that they've had some time to play around with it but no.

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