Sunday, May 29, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: More Mashup Cards

I made some more mashup cards using the Gatherer's random card button.

Alright, here's the first two random cards:

While they don't have a lot in common, the key is to just focus on a few aspects from each cards. I combined the mana production of Borderpost with Ancestral Recall to get this:

A draw spell that helps you cast what you drew right away. If it were to go in a set, it would have to be a multicolor set featuring enemy colors.

This is quite weird, in a good way - it's a mono-blue spell that acts like a mana ritual, without breaking the color pie, because you have access to Green and Red anyways. It's like Shoreline Salvager.

Next, I focused on the land-bouncing cost of the Borderpost and I got this:

Then I interpreted Ancestrall Recall as being a member of the "3-point effect for one mana" cycle of Alpha that consisted of Giant Growth, Dark Ritual, Healing Salve, and Lightning Bolt.

From Dark Ritual and the land-bouncing cost of Firewild Borderpost, I got this:

I also thought it would be interesting to explore cards like Energizing Thought, where you can get an effect for another color in the color pie, by requiring some color-satisfying condition other than paying mana.

This could work in a Wedge-color set. (A three-color set like Shards of Alara, except you play one central color and its two enemy colors.) It grants flying even though it's a green card. I didn't explore this kind of safe color-crossing further at this time, but there could be many other ways of doing something like this.

The next two randomly selected cards were:

While counting losses to a player isn't practical in most cases, I interpreted Gus as being vindicative, and I made a Blisterstick Shaman that punishes the opponent for attacking you.

I'm glad I ended up with a clean, simple common since they are always hard to design.

The third pair of random cards are:

I looked at the lifegain ability of the Leyline and combined it with the mana taxing ability and the trigger conditions of Frost Titan to make this:

This would be quite a powerful and annoying Propaganda vaiant.

Then I made a variant based on the tapdown ability of the Titan. This one only gets the enchantment type from the Leyline side of its gene pool, but I think that's ok since the purpose is to generate ideas.

The last 2 random cards are:

I made a flyer like the Imp that protects other attackers like a Remedy spell, but I changed the damage prevention to toughness boosting to keep things simple:

I looked at it and thought, I want this to benefit from attacking in a team rather than just boosting others. The Remedy side can like be the Knight's shield, and the Daggerclaw side can be like the Knight's weapon.

It might be interesting to make its ability count the opponent's attacker during the opponent's attacks as well.

I looked at this and thought it would be great to have a variant of this card that makes you choose if it's going to be used for offense or defense. It reminded me of Jay Treat's Versatile mechanic during the Great Designer Search 2, where you can choose from two modes that a creature has. I also thought about this mechanic I posted on the GDS2 wiki, where cards contain both a dark side and a light side, and you can choose which side you align yourself with during the game. I also thought about how Devon Rule's set in the GDS2 really wanted a mechanic to convey a peaceful society converting its tools and resources for war.

I also thought of the Archangel of Strife card in the Commander product:

Archangel of Strife from Commander
Those things came together and I made this:

The idea is that there are many cards with a War mode and a Peace mode. The mode you chose applies to all cards with War or Peace. You can change your mode only when you cast another card with War or Peace.

I tried to imagine what a common card would look like that had this mechanic, and I came up with this:

I think this could be a good set mechanic. The cards have to have a feel-good "choose your boon" style instead of a "choose wrong, and you will prove that you suck" feel. But I think it has great game play.

So those are my cards this time. 

I found that the key doing this is to extract abstract aspects from each random card instead of trying to emulate both cards' mechanic exactly.

I hope you enjoyed these, and I hope you'll try the random card button whenever you feel stuck. See you next post!


  1. This is a great exercise, and interestingly similar to using new mechanics with staple effects. I just ran through a bunch and it's a great time. Try it out!:

    First I got Urza's Tower and Bitter Ordeal. The most I could come up with was building something up in your graveyard as a connection, and ended up with the awkward

    Unity Through Loss 1W
    Enchantment (U)
    As long as there are an Elf card, a Human card and a Dwarf card in your graveyard, creatures you control get +3/+3.

    from Middle Earth block... Luckily, as I continued I was better able to free associate, so when I came across Rally the Forces and Darigaaz's Attendant, I made

    Raidblessed Reveller 2R
    Creature - Goblin Shaman (C)
    Sacrifice a creature that dealt damage to an opponent this turn: Add R to your mana pool.

    Later I came across Sigil of the New Dawn and Cathodian, and realizing their synergy, created

    Anodite 3
    Artifact Creature - Construct (C)
    When Anodite dies, add 3 to your mana pool and search your library for a card named Anodite, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.

    Obviously this is a bit complex for a common, but I mused that this would have to be common to enable a draft archetype.

    Vedalken Shackles and Bad Moon brought me to an odd Prison Term variant

    Contagious Curse BB
    Enchantment - Aura (U)
    Enchant Creature
    Enchanted creature gets -1/-1 for each Swamp you control.
    Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under an opponent’s control, you may attach Contagious Curse to that creature.

    This ended interestingly because you have to choose whether to play lands and kill the enchanted creature or hold them to keep your opponent from laying down a bigger threat. Likewise, they need to evaluate when you'll move it: can they trick you into killing a smaller creature they play that won't actually be dangerous (say, Fauna Shaman)?

    After a bunch more cards (most of which aren't terribly well designed, but I can post them if someone is interested), I got Insist and Pearl Dragon. At first I thought I'd make a creature for which the Honor Guard ability protected it from counter magic (G: Counter target spell that targets this spell unless its controller pays 2.), but that felt fiddly for no reason, and I settled on a Hexproof variant

    AEtherward Enoroth 3GG
    Creature - Beast (R)
    This spell can’t be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.

    It's rather questionable whether this ability adds enough to justify the extra confusion over "can't be countered," but my suspicion is no.

    Between these and all of the others, I realized that none of the cards were mono blue, so I went for another and got Steal Artifact and Kraken's Eye. Surely it must be a sign! I considered using the trigger from Kraken's Eye to steal something, but decided on a more fun card even if it didn't accomplish the goal of blueness

    Elicited Patronage 3WUU
    Enchantment - Aura (U)
    Enchant Permanent
    You control enchanted permanent.
    Whenever a player casts a spell that shares a color with Elicited Patronage or enchanted permanent, you may gain 1 life.

    Ironically, this is at its worst where it's a Steal Artifact, and perhaps it would be cleaner to only steal creatures. Food for thought. Anyway, I'd love to see your feedback or your results with this exercise.

  2. Archangel of Strife costs 7 mana and is in the Commander set because choosing War or Peace a second time gives you both effects. Make sure your reminder text indicates that you're reselecting whenever you cast a new card with War or Peace.

  3. I haven't had much to say about the individual entries, but I really like this series.

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    @Nich Grayson - Thanks for pointing it out. I'm thinking:
    War or peace (When you cast this, set your stance to war or peace.)
    If you're at war, EFFECT
    If you're at peace, EFFECT

    I'm hoping the "set your stance to" makes it clear that further choices overwrites the first choice, and that it's the player's stance, not just a choice for that card.

    Unity through Loss - maybe it can ask for a Warrior, Wizard, and Cleric to be less parasitic.

    Raidblessed Reveller - I think it might be ok to get RR if you're sacking a creature, especially one that's good enough to get past blockers.

    Anodite - I wish you could sacrifice it, or keep the mana around if it died in combat. That would make it work better as a draft theme card in limited. (Such as in a dino deck.) But if there's lots of sac effects in the set I guess it's ok.

    Contagious Curse - I don't know how it would feel to play with this or against it, but it's definitely interesting and there's room for mind tricks. As an uncommon that can be tricky or used as normal straightforward removal if you want to, there must be room for it in many sets. I think it shouldn't require double black, to keep it flexible.

    Aetherward Enoroth - Hexproof 7/5 for 5cc is an interesting french vanilla. It's a scary creature that green deserves. I like how it demands creature-on-creature combat from the opponent instead of just tricks and removal, and it can potentially outrace evasion. I like the card itself, but I think there were many other ways to represent Insist on the card.

    Elicited Patronage - This is my favorite. It's an interesting combination. Also, you can keep the cost mono-Blue and justify the color bleed of life gain by saying it's for Mirrodin Pure! ;)

  5. Mercy Killing + Sejiri Refuge =

    Emergency Rations 1W
    Target player sacrifices a creature, then gains life equal to that creature's power.

    Tidal Flats + Juxtapose =

    Muddled Loyalties 1UU
    Choose target attacking creature. Exchange control of that creature and target creature blocking it.

    Stolen Grain + Naya Sojourners =

    Sanguine Feast 3BB
    Target player loses 3 life. Put three +1/+1 counters on target creature.

    Scourge of Kher Ridges + Suffer the Past =

    Funeral Pyres 1R
    1R, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Put a blaze counter on Funeral Pyres.
    1R, Sacrifice Funeral Pyres: Funeral Pyres deals damage equal to the number of blaze counters on Funeral Pyres to each creature without flying.

    Circle of Protection: Red + Elvish Champion =

    Elvish Rockclimber 2G
    Creature - Elf Scout
    R: Target creature gains mountainwalk until end of turn.

  6. Energizing Thought reads quite bizarrely. It does make more sense in the context of the set you describe, but it just doesn't stand on its own.

    I like Wild Recall a lot, despite its similarity to Gush. I do wish the numbers could be more square, but I think this might be the best combination.

    I suspect Managate Ritual is more interesting to play than to read.

    Unlike the Mountains and Forests clause on Energizing Thought, I get what the blue and black clauses are doing on General of Cunning Strength. Very interesting. That said, I wish the ability granted to blue were something green and blue have in common (like shroud) to match the black/green deathtouch deal.

    Acrobatic Archer is pretty sweet. Very printable, though I'm tempted to switch the P/T.

    I like that Gates of Andorian is more lenient than Ghostly Prison, but I'm not 100% sold on the dual-trigger. It's not a hard sell since it references Soul Warden et al nicely.

    Maybe Tranquil Moon could be templated more simply? "Creatures and artifacts don't untap unless their controller pays 1."

    Strike Force Captain is cool. I might prefer 2/2 with +0/+2?

    Rallying Knight is an awesome white implementation of lure+deathtouch.

    Hero of Many Blades is ridiculously broken. Removing first strike or upping the cost would make an interesting card though.

    I love "war or peace" and agree this could be a minor mechanic in a set or block. I think your wording does suggest that the choice is universal, but the templating team would handle that.

    It's weird seeing "can't block" on a white creature (Swordhand of Strife), but maybe it works in this context?

    I want Ication Reserves abilities to be more parallel, but I think it still illustrates good potential for this mechanic.

    Jules and Luminum's card are fun and interesting too. I particularly like Elicited Patronage (which I think could be mono-U and only trigger based off of the permanent) and Muddled Loyalties ("Exchange control of target attacking creature and target creature blocking it.")

  7. I'm going to go ahead and agree with Jay that Muddled Loyalties is awesome. That said, I think it needs reminder text because a lot of people won't realize that the creatures cease to be in combat. On Chah's and Jay's suggestion that Elicited Patronage could be mono blue, it certainly wouldn't be any more bleed than Kraken's Eye itself, but I've always been uneasy with bleed (and its inverse: needless coloration). In an effort to combat this, I've done some more, and finally got a nice place to bleed in Moon Sprite + Vivid Creek. Moon Sprite would now be a blue card (okay, okay, it could be white or black) and Vivid Creek allowed blue decks (5CC) to play off color cards like Cloudthresher. To that end, I decided to make a green flying hoser that bled flying into green:

    Invert 1G
    Instant (U)
    X target creatures gain flying until end of turn where X is the number of creatures with flying your opponents control.

    Invert can be used defensively to kill off a bunch of fliers with your beefier groundpounders, or you can use it to punish the evasive creatures by swinging back unlocked after they've spent a turn pecking away at your life total, sort of like an Overrun. Overall I'm pretty happy with this card, but I can't help feeling it should have simply given reach for G at common despite the huge loss of functionality.

  8. @Jules - oops, I totally misread Enoroth. I think "Can't be countered" is ok and the extra words aren't worth it. I think it could have an additional ability that hates out counters after it hits play.

    @Nich - The clearest I can make the war or peace mechanic is:
    War or Peace (When you cast this, you choose to either gain a war counter or lose all war counters.)
    If you have a war counter, EFFECT.
    If you don't have a war counter, EFFECT.
    This is less flavorful and also the slight increase in words would still change the number of text lines needed on commons significantly.

    On the other hand, with this version, it's possible to add a twist to the mechanic in the second or third set of the block - Cards can be designed to scale its effect with the number of war counters you have.

    @Luminum Can
    Emergency Rations - I wish it said target attacking or blocking creature. But I guess the bleed is not serious since white gets to kill creatures. In a hybrid set, I could see this as a B/W hybrid card, although it doesn't perfectly fit in either color.

    Muddled Loyalties - The creatures would be removed from combat, is that the intention? But the effect is definitely cool.

    I don't know what the fix would be - "The blocking creature becomes an attacking creature and the attacking creature becomes a blocking creature blocking it" or something like that?

    Sanguine Feast - This makes a lot of sense. There should be alternate drain cards like this.

    But somehow I wish it dealt damage to a creature to get counters on another creature. Even though the flavor is very clear at first read, I suspect that upon playing it the life loss is going to feel like a tack-on effect to an Aura rather than a symmetrical effect that feels like "I gained what you lost."

    Funeral Pyres - I think the basic concept is good, but it's a lot of work and mana to make a pyroclasm, and it isn't a surprise. I'd like it better if it dealt damage to an opponent, or dealt damage distributed as you like. One variation I just got thought of is, it could exile a card from grave each turn, and if you can't, it goes off.

    Elvish Rockclimber - I think it's less swingy in Limited if it said "At the beginning of your combat step, target Elf gains mountainwalk until end of turn." or if the activation cost cost a little more.

  9. Jules, I like where you're going with Invert, but I wonder if it can't be distilled:

    Invert G
    Target creature with flying loses flying until EOT.
    Target creature without flying gains flying until EOT.

    I feel like that could be justified in green since it can't be cast without an opponent controlling a flier. That said, it feels more red or blue to me now.

  10. Jay, that's an excellent point; I hadn't thought about it, but one target for each plays like giving two of your guys (or more if you double+ block) flying, cool! That said, the mirroring certainly does make it feel like a UR card, Earthbind + Flight or somesuch.