Thursday, July 21, 2011

CCDD 072111—Ruled by Lightning

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/21/2011 - Sparkify!

Aka, make your creature like a Spark Elemental.


  1. Alex is right. Getting +3/+0 is a boring last thing to do before you die. Make it give +6/+1 (for RRR). And call it Balls of Lightning.


    Also, aura tag?

  2. Ball's Embrace? Nah, that won't work...

  3. Coincidentally, I assembled a card nearly identical to Ruled by Lightning for the set I made for the GDS2:

    Screaming Rage
    Target creature you control gets +5/+0 and gains trample and haste until end of turn. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.

    I say "assembled" instead of "designed" because it's such a predictable combination of effects. I'm sure it's been dreamed up ten thousand times in the past 17 years. For example, Scott Van Essen suggested it as one of his set's central red mechanics in the early stages of the GDS2, Tears of Rage and Fatal Frenzy are existing cards that do something like this, etc.

    Which isn't to say it's not a fun and interesting card to think about, or that it's not a great card to post as a CCDD. Every day can't (and shouldn't) be mythic hydras and the like. And truth be told, I actually enjoy seeing attempts at interesting commons more than I do attempts at baller rares.

    That being said, your cards are generally in dire need of some spit and polish in the templating department. Realistically, it takes less than 60 seconds on Gatherer to find the proper templating for 95% or more of the cards you can dream up. I understand sometimes mistakes will still be made. Even the great GleamAxe slips up from time to time. The problem is the great Jay Treat slips up almost every day, and it distracts from your work.

    Please don't take that the wrong way, as I'm not trying to insult you, just trying to help you improve. I think you really want to be the best designer you can possibly be, so stop fighting it. Learn the hard things. Learn the easy things. Show everyone that you've mastered them all and stop giving people excuses not to take you seriously.

  4. I'm glad that I'm not the only one unnerved about templating. But I usually lay low because I simply don't understand it. I don't understand how Mark Rosewater, arguably the second greatest Magic designer ever, is incapable of piecing together a simple card text. I guess it's a thing visionary designers have and I just have to accept that, as much as I find that abhorrent. *shrug*

  5. I think it's lazy and dishonest, Anonymous, for anyone (much less a budding designer) to dismiss the importance of understanding templating just because one famous designer does.

    Shaquille O'Neal is was a great ball player despite not being able to make a free throw, not because of it. Similarly, Mark Rosewater is a great designer despite his own admission that he is "bad at templating".

    Personally, I'm of the opinion that any designer that refuses to learn the fundamentals of templating is just being pig headed and stubborn. That may be Mark Rosewater's prerogative due to his stature and contributions to the game, but it's certainly not something to aspire to.

    If a monkey could easily be taught a particular skill in your chosen field, you should probably just master that skill, so all the monkeys have nothing to grunt about.

  6. I agree that knowledge and use of proper templating is an essential skill for any designer, if for no other reason than clarity. Putting the "gist" of what you're trying to communicate won't always cut it; being as unambiguous as possible with what you're proposing will only help critique and developing the idea.

    Minor errors are somewhat acceptable as long as the message remains clear, even though they still personally irk me. I won't chew someone out for saying "at end of turn" for example, because I still know exactly what they mean. It'll still annoy me, but I can live with it.

  7. I consider myself slightly Melvinish (a mini-Melvin?) and think you two are going a bit overboard. It is far more important in the design stage to get the mechanic across clearly instead of wasting time getting the templating right.

  8. If you are at the point of making a render, the templating should be correct. A clean text is as much a part of the complete cast as a fitting illustration.

  9. Note to self: I can get more responses by presenting a card with templating from three years ago and no commentary than by making something innovative and/or musing about the game or the process of design.
    Good deal.

  10. The commentary was better when they were trying to solve how best to turn the card name into testicular innuendo.

  11. Jay, I chose this post to highlight one of your particular deficiencies precisely because there wasn't anything else to talk about. The post contains no new ideas, no analysis, not even empty, idle musings. It's just wall to wall templating errors. Whatever numerous errors your other posts may have, at least they are usually accompanied by you introducing a topic of discussion.

    Anyway, your flippant response, though unsurprising, is still disappointing. Is "I don't care what anyone else has to say, I'm not willing to learn" really the message you want to use to respond to your critics? Good deal?

    Your attitude also shows an alarming disregard for the realities of modern Magic design. Perhaps you see yourself as something of a "pure designer" -- whatever that means -- that doesn't need to be concerned with trivialities like templating, power level, historical impact, creative fluency, etc.

    But every few months, Mark (or the lead designer of the upcoming set) writes an article about that set's design team. And it's never five designers. The team's always got someone from creative, and/or someone from the rules team, and/or someone from development, and/or someone from another game, and/or a programmer, etc.

    Game design is more than just dreaming up ideas for other people to execute. The sooner you realize that and embrace all the myriad roles a designer needs to fill, all the multifarious skills you can master to further hone your craft, the sooner people can start to take you seriously.

    Until then, allow me to retort with my own note to self: I really should stop wasting my time trying to help people that have no interest in learning.

  12. So diffusing the situation with humor didn't work?

    I guess I'll try the direct approach, then.

    I am more insulted by the assertion that I don't care what others have to say than the implication that I am lazy, dishonest and/or less dedicated than a monkey.

    I am well aware that I have a LONG way to go as a designer and I most certainly value other opinions. I have tried to make a point of that every week, but if I have failed to be clear, let me be so now:

    This blog is a chance for sharing and growth. While I do hope that some readers learn something from time to time, it is not lost on me that I have more to learn from this experience than anyone else. I cannot express how grateful I am to the blog's readers and contributors.

    I don't respond to every comment, but I do read and consider each of them. There have been many very good points and suggestions offered that have made me a better designer, yet I've only responded to a fraction of them because I do not wish to waste my readers' time with innumerable "good one"s and "oh yeah"s.

    GleamAxe points out that "end of turn" should have been "beginning of the next end step," and he is correct. In fact, he's so undeniably correct, I didn't think it required personally confirming. My mistake.

  13. No one called you lazy, dishonest, or less than a monkey, Jay. No one called you anything. The lazy and dishonest comment was (clearly) directed at Anonymous' viewpoint. To paraphrase:

    Anonymous: "I don't understand it, but Mark Rosewater sucks at templating, so I guess I'll just accept that all great designers must suck at templating."

    Me: "That's a lazy and dishonest viewpoint, Anonymous. Nobody's perfect, and we shouldn't accept the deficiencies of even our heroes as a matter of course. Budding designers especially must not, since we should be doing our level best to learn and improve in any and every way we can.”

    Nowhere did anyone say you were a proponent of Anonymous’ viewpoint, nor did anyone say anything resembling, “Jay Treat is lazy, dishonest, and less than a monkey.” It’s also instructive to note that Anonymous wasn’t offended by the suggestion that a viewpoint he held was lazy and dishonest. I reckon that’s because he understands “That’s a bad idea!” is quite a distinct concept from “You’re a bad person!”

    It seems particularly outrageous, then, for you to take offense at a paranoid interpretation of a conversation between two other people that wasn’t even about you.

    I did actually insult someone in the third paragraph of that comment, but it wasn’t you. I more or less said “Mark Rosewater is being pig headed and stubborn by refusing to learn a pretty basic skill, though admittedly at this point he doesn’t really need to.” My language there was unnecessarily inflammatory, and despite the fact that I also called Mark a “great designer” one paragraph prior, in hindsight the whole comment was pretty childish. Again, it clearly wasn’t directed at you.

    It’s especially frustrating that you would take unwarranted offense at the monkey joke, as I was doing nothing else but coyly suggesting I – me, personally – was a grunting monkey, in an attempt to inject some levity into an otherwise dry and technical discussion of opposing views.

    I feel like you are putting so much effort into rooting out what various comments *might* have meant if they were furtively said, and if their authors had ill intentions, that you are completely missing out on what was *actually* said.

    What you heard:


    What was said:

    “Anonymous, that viewpoint is despicable. Also, though a great designer, Mark Rosewater is a bit of a goon when it comes to templating. Treat him as an exception and not the rule. I am a monkey.”

    Also interesting is that both here and on Twitter you suggested you were merely trying to “diffuse the situation.” But what situation? Anonymous, Alex Spalding, Treborj60, and I were all having a calm, collected, and civil conversation about whether or not templating was an important skill for designers to learn. The conversation didn’t “heat up”, so to speak, until you inserted yourself into it with a clever combination of righteous indignation and exasperated disdain.

    Tellingly, you made no actual effort to address the criticism or to join the topic of discussion. Instead you continually steered the conversation toward one mistake on one card with comments like, “Oh man. Check out the heat I’m getting for this [itty bitty trivial mistake that really isn’t even a mistake]” or outbursts really out of left field like “You really only see the worst in people. It’s actually impressive” that one suspects you might interpret as personal attacks were they leveled at you. What a strange pot calling the ivory black moment!

    (Continued in next comment.)

  14. Now you make a point of saying you read every comment and try to learn from them all, but you don’t have the time or the inclination to respond to them all, especially because you don’t want to bombard your readers with empty platitudes. But you *did* respond to the conversation here, and disappointingly, not in a way that had any relevance. The main topics of the conversation were two tangentially related points:

    1) You make lots of simple and distracting templating errors.
    2) Is templating a valuable skill for a designer to learn?

    Instead of talking about either of those two things, you tried to downplay the criticism by strangely and repeatedly focusing on (and pretending other people were focusing on) one mistake on one card that no one but you was ever talking about in the first place. Since you are unduly enamored with Ruled by Lightning, I will take a detour to address it here at length, though I was not talking about and never mentioned Ruled by Lightning’s specific templating errors anywhere in this thread prior to this moment.


    Your wording: “Target creature you control gets +3/+0 and gains haste and trample. Sacrifice it at the end of the turn.”

    Correct wording circa Alara block: “Target creature you control gets +3/+0 and gains trample and haste until end of turn. Sacrifice it at end of turn.”

    Correct wording today: “Target creature you control gets +3/+0 and gains trample and haste until end of turn. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.”

    In order of severity, the errors in your wording are:

    1) You forgot “until end of turn” at the end of the first sentence.

    When you belatedly realized this, you feebly argued on Twitter that “[omitting] ‘until end of turn’ on abilities wasn’t a mistake.” I really can’t believe you’d try the ol’ “I meant to do that” gambit after noticing the error. Unfortunately for you, people aren’t that credulous.

    You would have us believe that on a common card, without any further explanation or comment, you wanted to needlessly print an ability in a way it’s never been printed, just so it has unexpected interactions with Time Stop and Ray of Command? You can do better than that.

    Fatal Frenzy and Tears of Rage demonstrate how these kinds of cards are templated. Postmortem Lunge (and ilk) and the Unearth mechanic are misleading, here, since they grant haste indefinitely. It’s important to note that Unearth needs to be as concise as possible, and that haste is a virtual vanilla mechanic. Trample and +3/+0, on the other hand, are not.

    It’s ludicrous to claim you intentionally designed esoteric interactions on an unexplained and otherwise carelessly presented common with an established template, or that you believe Wizards would print such an altered template on a common in a vacuum (or arguably, ever.) This is an unambiguous mistake.

    2a) Modern - You wrote “the end of the turn” instead of “the beginning of the next end step”.

    2b) Alara - You wrote “the end of the turn” instead of “end of turn”.

    (Continued in next comment.)

  15. 3) You wrote “haste and trample” instead of “trample and haste”.

    Yes, this is incredibly nitpicky and about as minor as a templating mistake can get, but you’ve asked repeatedly for the complete rundown, so here it is. (Additionally, I acknowledge this might not even be correct.)

    Magic hasn’t been consistent with ability word ordering in the past, but it appears the modern game has mostly cleaned up its act. Undeniably, the preferred order on creatures is trample, then haste, but it’s possible the order might change when a spell or ability is granting ability words to a target. That doesn’t appear to be the case, though.

    Golem Artisan is the most recent example of this, and its preferred order is (flying,) trample, then haste. M11’s Sword of Vengeance also supports this order, with (first strike, vigilance,) trample, then haste. Ditto for Elemental Appeal, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Sparkspitter, Akroma’s Memorial, and the now ancient Helm of Kaldra.

    A glaring exception is one of the shapeshifter abilities, seen on, for example, Cairn Wanderer and Death-Mask Duplicant. Why does haste come before trample on that list? I don’t know, but perhaps it has something to do with spacing. That’s an exceptionally long ability, so space concerns may have trumped normal word order to ensure the entire ability fit on as few lines as possible.

    Thornling also presents a minor conundrum, in that the ability that grants it haste comes before the ability that grants it trample. I suspect this is either a minor oversight on the part of the templating team, or that ability word order isn’t *that* closely observed.


    I certainly don’t believe good designers need to have such intimate knowledge of templating that they recognize issues like #3 (or know whether or not it’s even a real issue), but #1 is a legitimate complaint, and #2 is just careless.

    The first two things many people would say upon reading your chosen wording for Ruled by Lightning would be, “By the way, that wording isn’t used any more” and “You mean the creature gets those abilities until end of turn, right?” If even one person says or thinks the latter – and at least one person did, me! – then you have demonstrably failed to accurately communicate your vision, which is a minor (but correctable) problem that detracts and distracts from your work.

    A somewhat bigger problem is when you are so opposed to the concept of criticism that your only response is sullen, suspicious, knee-jerk, and reactionary. Moreover, plainly false denial and dissembling is not becoming. So please, learn how to take your lumps. I think we’ve spent enough time on this as it is.

  16. @GleamAxe: I won't go into your personal argument with Jay (templating is worth some attention, but the function of the card posted here was obvious, and the templating irregularities were not distracting to me, at least). However, I think your point #3 was interesting; it wouldn't surprise me if there is a default keyword order, but I would have expected haste to come before trample. Haste comes before trample alphabetically, and haste also matters to a creature before trample does (a known reason for the ordering of abilities). I believe the latter is the explanation for Thornling's ordering - first you give it haste, then after blockers you give it trample, and finally, after damage is on the stack (back when Thornling was printed), you make it indestructible.

  17. The keyword order on Cairn Wanderer is alphabetical; since players will have to look at all the keywords on creature cards in the graveyard and check whether it is listed on Cairn Wanderer's text or not ("Does exalted count? how about unblockable?") so it is easier to look up if they're alphabetical.

    For Akroma and other multiscoop vanilla cards, my guess is that the number one priority is making the board easier to scan when you're trying to decide if it's safe to attack or not. Being able to spot out the flyers quickly is most important for this, and first strike comes second.

    Haste doesn't need to be emphasized because it only matters for one turn, so if there's multiple keywords, it comes near the end. Players who cast creatures with haste are eager to attack and rarely forget to do so.

    I think protection is an exception to all this, where it has to come last in the list of keywords even though it's an important keyword to note when you're scanning the board to see if you can attack.

    I think it must be because it's a complex ability. You have to stop and think to evaluate its relevance to the board. It's a harder keyword for the mind to process no matter where it appears on a card's list of keywords, so there isn't as much benefit from putting it first.

    Also, protection has physically longer text ("protection from red and black," etc.) and I think putting a long phrase in front of list of otherwise simple words somehow makes the whole list feel harder to read, while putting the most longest phrase last helps you surmise the card quickly.