Friday, August 5, 2011

CCDD 080511—Mermaid Lyrist

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/5/2011 - I'm in Indianapolis today for GenCon, so I prepared this installment early. If you're there, come and say hi. If not, maybe next time. Either way, wish me luck: I'm pitching a couple non-Magic related boardgame designs to publishers for the first time.

On to today's card. Alluring Siren is a gorgeous descendant of Siren's Call. Both cards evoke the classic, sailor-slaughtering mermaid trope, but the newer card is more tangible (as a creature rather than a spell) and vastly more elegant, requiring just one short sensible line of rules text. Mermaid Lyrist continues the simple, utility creature tactic of Alluring Siren, but looks to expand the trope into one of its inevitable permutations.

I'll tell you right now, I have no idea what this should actually cost. Could be 1U like its brother or even 2U because it's better in your average blue deck. My instinct is to keep it cheap to cast and small, but to add an
activation cost to the ability (probably just a U).

Regardless of how it's costed, there's obviously a conversation around the fact that this is basically the polar opposite ability. Mechanically, this ability does fit well in blue. It's similar to white's tapping ability from Gideon's Lawkeeper et al, so it could be white, except that being so similar mandates some separation. It fits blue's strategy even better than Alluring Siren since blue tends to prefer to avoid combat rather than incite it. Even though "can't attack" is the opposite of "must attack," they're both effects that dictate the flow of combat and remove choices from your opponent.

There's clearly room for argument, but I'm confident that Mermaid Lyrist is just as mermaid-tastic as its forebearers and broadens the theme of sonic mental influence.


  1. This is a weaker version of the tapper effect, and it could provide alternatives when you want to put it on a creature with other abilities without making it too strong.

    For example, there could be a 1/2 flying vigilance guy that says "T: Target creature can't attack this turn."

    It could also be good to use this weaker ability on cards when you don't want the same tapper clone to be the top-tier white/blue common in every set. (Not that traditional tappers are broken, but for the sake of variety of Limited environments.)

    I think the key to nerfing this ability is to make it so that it doesn't prevent a creature from both attacking and blocking with a single activation; for that purpose, "T: Target creature can't attack or block this turn." might also work.

    Finally, I just realized while writing this comment that traditional tappers are a great way to educate beginning players to wait to do things on their opponent's turns.

  2. For me, this is simply not a blue card. Forcing attacks fills a very different part of the color pie than does preventing attacks -- the latter being white, as clearly indicated by Thundersong Trumpeter (whose "can't block" text is clearly the "red half" of the card). "Can't attack" fits best in white's pacifist flavor. Given that comp, and the fact that "can't attack" is presumably the stronger half of that card, I think that Mermaid Lyrist is also a bit stronger than it should be; it has the same ability as the better half of a card costing at least twice as much (1 vs. 2, and gold makes the Trumpeter's cost more difficult).

    I feel that a better "mirror" to Alluring Siren-type effects would be "blocks this turn if able" -- an effect previously seen in very different contexts mostly in green and occasionally in blue, but unique enough in this activated ability implementation and strong enough in "Siren" flavor (Sirens draw creatures into danger) that it could arguably find a home even in blue.

  3. Here's what I consider the canonic distribution of the attack/block forcing/prevention:

    can't attack -- white
    can't block -- black
    must attack -- red
    must block -- green

    Funny how there's no blue. Also, this is material for at least two elegant four-coloured cards.

  4. In my previous post, I meant that "must block" was seen mostly in green and occasionally in *red* (not blue).

    This site really needs a comment editing feature for the way I normally post.

  5. Anonymous's little table is probably accurate these days, but red still has quite a claim on the "can't block". It's very tempting to combine different elements from the table into gold cards, which is what Burning-Tree Bloodscale and Thundersong Trumpeter did, both elegantly; but both of them had red get "target creature can't block".

    I think perhaps black gets "THIS creature can't block", but red gets "TARGET creature can't block".