Friday, July 22, 2011

CCDD 072211—Test of Loyalty

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/22/2011 - I was looking for a card that depicts a parent's protective nature. It's not uncommon to hear a new father proclaim that he would not hesitate to give his own life to protect his child, and likewise a mother. That's a noble sentiment, but it also raises the question of when that would come up. Certainly, it would take an irredeemably evil entity to make such a terrible demand. "Your life or your child's life!"

That scenario is so morbid I'm not sure it belongs on a Magic card as proposed, which is part of the reason Test of Loyalty's flavor has abstracted it to more of a team/cause-based thing. "Will you die so that your allies may live?" Still grim, but more palatable.

Mechanically, we've got a removal spell that can kill anything it can target, even Blightsteel Colossus or act as mass removal. The trouble being that it's not your choice, but your opponent's. It falls somewhere between Cruel Edict and Damnation in functionality, but in a Misfortune kind of way.

A fair number of players hate effects like that because they're all but guaranteed to get the worst effect possible every time. Ideally, cards of this ilk are strong enough on both ends that the caster doesn't even care which half is chosen. I would say Browbeat meets this criterion, but I might be in the minority opinion there.

Sadly, that's not the case for Test of Loyalty at 1BB. It's useless when your opponent has just one creature (where Cruel Edict is at its best), not quite on par when they have two, but better when they have three or more. Similarly, it's worse than Damnation in most cases where you don't control relevant creatures (or numbers thereof). Could it cost BB? That'd be pushing it.

Even so, the griefers among us enjoy giving their opponent a potentially very difficult choice. I know a few casual players who are more negatively affected by having to make such choices than their board is by the effect itself. Do we want to make a lot of cards like that? Certainly not. Do we want to make one per set? Gotta give the griefers something.

EDIT: This could arguably cost {1}{B} or even {B}. For reference: Do or Die.


  1. Very similar to and almost strictly worse than Do or Die, except for the sacrifice instead of destroy? Do or Die lets you pick 1 creature for 1 pile to replicate this effect, gives more options, and costs less.

  2. Missed that one in my search for similar cards. Thanks for catching that, SamLL. It's definitely a stronger card, but remember that doesn't necessarily make it a better design.

    Assuming we drop the cost of mine to 1B since we have precedent to go from, I think it's a close call. I very much prefer the flavor of Test Loyalty as supported by its rules text, but Do or Die offers more choices which makes it a more skill-testing and—for most players—a more interesting card to play.

    If they wanted a card like this for a future set, would they reprint Do or Die or make a Terror->Doom Blade type switch to Test Loyalty? I'm guessing roughly 3:1 odds in favor of the reprint *unless* they need to shave off a complexity point.

  3. It's sad that most of Fact or Fiction's brethren have been long-forgotten, but I guess the same can said for most of the Dissension splits other than Crime//Punishment.

    Not that I blame you for missing it, Jay, I just think those cards are all pretty neat. More fun than the Browbeat "cycle".

  4. Do or Die made a splash when it was spoiled, but turned out not to be good enough for actual Constructed play. With that in mind, you could cost your spell at a single B. I definitely like the spell, but even at B it would probably only see sideboard and casual play (and Limited, of course). Even so, it's nice flavor and interesting gameplay!

  5. I find the flavor amazing. Development would be able to sort the cost or add a rider to it if they wanted.

  6. This wording would make Test of Loyalty work when your opponent has no other creatures (but it reads more awkwardly):
    "Target creature's controller may sacrifice each other creature he or she controls. If that player doesn't, he or she sacrifices the targeted creature."