Wednesday, June 8, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: Part 7 — Read R&D Articles

In this series so far, I've often discussed ways to get random stimulus that sparks off free association of some kind. But once you get that stimulus, the direction in which you take that design is often guided by your understanding of what you think is good in a card.

Oftentimes, I'll look at the initial stimulus and see something that connects to a design question I've been thinking about (such as "how do I make mill spells interactive and strategic?"), or a category of fun that I want to cater to, and that guides me to the final design.

When designing cards, it's important to have this sort of perspective on what you think cards should be like.

A great place to get new perspective is WotC's Daily Magic page. Of course, I probably don't need to tell you this if you're reading this page. You can read articles by Magic's designers, developers, and creative staff, where they talk about the thoughts and processes they went through as they created cards, mechanics, and sets. You can gain insight on what roles cards play to create fun gameplay, interesting environments, and new experiences, and what makes Magic tick as a game beyond the surface.

These articles can give us a fresh perspective on card design and set design, a new way of looking at things. You can often get interesting results by designing fresh off of reading these design perspectives.

These are some designs I made after reading A Vision of Compleation by Tom LaPille and Phyrexian Ken's Demands by Aaron Forsythe.

A Vision of Compleation talks about how Tom LaPille's goal for cards in New Phyrexian was to make them feel violating and transgressive.

I thought of this:

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This is a card I thought of as a way to turn an opponent's boon into punishment. A similar effect has been done before in the form of False Cure, though not on a static effect.

The next card is another take on Jay Treat's Path to Corruption, a card that works like a reverse Oblivion Ring

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Actually, I had almost the same idea as Jay independently, but he got the idea earlier and deserves the credit.

But anyways, I think it's a good example of how articles can inspire cards. The part about how Exclusion Ritual violates people's expectation of what should happen with Oblivion Ring-type cards (Destroying the Exclusion Ritual doesn't give you back the exiled card, whereas Oblivion Ring does) gave me this idea.

Then I read about Ken Nagle's Pwnage mechanic mentioned — it allowed you to shuffle the opponent's card into your own library. I designed this based on that thought:

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This card can represent the spirit of violation, transgression, and pwnage in the form of a card, but the mechanic is not something that can go on many cards.

From Aaron Forsythe's article, I got more detail about the Pwnage mechanic, including a card example that uses it.
Destroy target creature, then shuffle that creature card into your library. You own that card for the rest of the game.
Aaron Forsythe commented on this:
"That card in practice isn't even necessarily better than Terminate, as you often couldn't cast their creature if you drew it. BUT IT FELT SO MEAN! Ultimately, problems with card sleeves, potential theft, and general game-play mix-ups doomed this mechanic."
I thought about some mechanics that would work like this, and I came up with:

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This one doesn't quite do it. The intent of the original pwnage as I guess it is that the wording would be simple enough to go even on common cards, if it worked. Also, if pwnage worked, it would create the feeling that you are taking the opponent's best spells and assimilating them into your own deck, without actually increasing the density of stealing spells that cause swingy card advantage like Mind Control and Spelljack.

The text above is too fiddly to go on a common. Also, even though it requires the caster to pay a discard cost in order to steal the spell, you could just discard a land to get the opponent's best spell. In that sense, it's not much of an answer to the problem of having too many Spelljacks and Mind Controls in the set.

For this article, I tried fiddling around with it some more and I got to this:

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This version emulates the feel that the exiled spell was incorporated into your deck - you have to draw an equivalent card from your deck (or have already drawn the equivalent in your hand) to cast it. It doesn't give you the card advantage of direct stealing spells, which is good for putting it on many cards. It still allows you to assimilate the opponent's strengths into your deck. This can go on Doom Blade, Cancel, or Naturalize variants.

I hope you enjoyed this, and I hope you try designing fresh off of reading an article. See you next post!


  1. Sheoldred's Pwnage makes me want a new Thieving Magpie fused with Hypnotic Specter.
    Thieving Specter (rare)
    Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, he or she exiles a card at random from his or her hand. You may cast that card for as long as it remains exiled.

  2. Compare to Muse Vessel, I guess? That card could be pretty gruesome, but took a bunch of mana to use.