Wednesday, August 31, 2011

M13 Design Terrain

Apology. Leading a set design is hard. I'm not complaining—the challenge is fun and educational—but I am aware that my performance hasn't been flawless. For one, declaring terrain as our returning mechanic on Monday was probably a touch premature. Not for lack of confidence in that decision—I'm still convinced it's the best path to explore first—but for lack of support. Part of the lead designer's job is to sell the rest of the team on the big decisions to get their buy-in and I didn't do that as well as I should have when I should have.

I won't repeat the clarifications I made in the comments section of the last article or before, but in summary: Terrain is a valid choice for the product goals, it has serious potential as a mechanic in general, it comes with an exciting reprint with the promise of exciting new cards to follow, it forces a more custom design than exalted or provoke which in turn will result in more unique draft and play experiences, and it is the most challenging of the three paths. As you're about to read, we're going to run an experiment to verify or disprove most of those assertions.

I said this in the comments, but I want it to be "in print" as it were: All of the opinions you've rendered so far have been helpful. As with any group project, there will be opposing views and many ideas can only be acted upon in exclusions of others, but that doesn't mean each opinion expressed doesn't have value or that it doesn't add to the conversation. I can't bend to every whim, respond to every musing or explain every little choice, but I am considering your feedback very seriously and hopefully the other team members are too.

On Monday, I made a logical jump from naming our top-three contenders to naming the "winner" and I did so to help keep things moving but that made it seem like your opinions weren't as important. They are. I saw some inevitability in terrain and thought I'd cut right to the chase to save us time and I stepped on some toes doing it. I don't regret choosing terrain but I do regret doing it without another round of your involvement. You have my apologies. Let's move forward.

The Plan. It also occurs to me that the decision to begin fleshing out the set skeleton as our next step was sub-optimal. Not wrong, mind you, because all of that work is relevant and needs to be done soon, but having attempted my own task I can say that it's harder than it needs to be. The next step ideally would have been / is to design the first draft of terrain cards. That way, we can use those in the skeleton rather than have to search high and low for close-enough reprints or just leave awkward holes. Yes, we will have to redesign some or all of the terrain cards after the skeleton is fleshed out in order to make them fit better, but it will be a closer iteration.

Another bonus of the revised game plan is that we'll get a quick idea of how awesome terrain can be or if we can't design an initial set of terrain cards that are satisfactory, that's a conveniently early flag that we're on the wrong path. I doubt that will be the case, but why assume when we can know? The task to flesh out the skeleton isn't on hold per se (and we're certainly not throwing any of it out), but it is on the back-burner. If you wish to continue to work on that, please do, but the primary task I would like people to focus on is designing terrain cards.

Terrain. I originally thought we'd have one terrain card per ally color in each color at common (10) and then perhaps a double-terrain card per color at rare (+5). I'm less convinced that's our best path for a couple reasons. First, that means we'll have a black card that cares about islands and a blue card that cares about swamps, both at common. That's not necessarily wrong, but it might be too much. Secondly, Kird Ape should probably be uncommon. It obviously has been printed as a common before, and we certainly could bring it back as a common to make a big splash, but it was uncommon in Ninth Edition and its cousin, Loam Lion was uncommon in Worldwake and pushing it back to common would require a fast, aggressive environment, something M12 just did.

For those of you interested in proposing your own distribution, please do. It's not at all unlikely that one or more of you will find a better one. For the rest of you, here's what I'm thinking now: five common terrain cards all pointing counter-clockwise on the color wheel, five uncommon terrain cards (including Kird Ape) all pointing clockwise and possibly five rare cards pointing both ways. Three cycles may prove too much (as may a tally of 15 cards—the sum total of scry and bloodthirst cards from M11 and M12), but we'll see.

Submit up to one design per color per rarity, but you can overwrite your design any time before 5pm EST on Friday.

Templating. Terrain isn't necessarily the final name of the mechanic nor is the templating set in stone. Let's discuss those things as well. It could just be an ability word or it could be a keyword like this:

Swamp Terrain—CARDNAME has deathtouch. (As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME has deathtouch.)

Draw a card.
Island Terrain—Draw two cards instead of one. (If you control an Island, draw two cards instead of one.)


  1. It's an easy mistake to make, but that's still an ability word template. Disregarding that, the real question is does terrain warrant an ability word or a keyword at all?

    To me, the answer is a clear and resounding no. Just look at what your template has made you do. You've said the exact same thing twice, taking up twice as much space and using twice as many words, and for what benefit?

    With your current ability word template, you can't even refer to "cards with terrain", but even if you somehow turned this into a legitimate keyword template, would you want to?

    If you are going to hew to certain standards of simplicity that place intuitiveness over arbitrary mechanical complexity, I think the answer to that is also a clear no.

  2. Right. What are the pros and cons?

    The benefit of using a keyword or ability word is that players can discuss it by that name rather than having to make up their own nickname, they can instantly recognize cards of a similar ilk and it's also a lot easier to market a set by the mechanics that have key-/ability words than those that don't.

    The downside is that we are forcing another word into Magic players' lexicon and taking up more space on cards.

    Here's the first example from above:
    Swamp Terrain—CARDNAME has deathtouch. (As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME has deathtouch.)

    Here it is as a plain ability word:
    Terrain—As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME has deathtouch.

    And here it is on its own:
    As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME has deathtouch.

    I'm in the camp that it should have at least an ability word. A keyword is probably unnecessary because—as GleamAxe points out—I doubt we'll ever need "Target creature with terrain."

    Did I miss any options or other pros/cons?

  3. The second version is fine, it has none of the duplicated text and doesn't require any reminder text (other than the ability word itself.)

    Would that prevent you from reprinting, say, Kird Ape? I don't know the answer to this, but even though ability words have no rules meaning, my guess is yes. Is there an example of a card that was later reprinted with an added ability word?

  4. I think the experience I've had while filling in the skeleton makes me reconsider the order in which we're doing things. Going through the slots available and seeing where flavorful reprints exist has given me a much better impression about just what role a mechanic needs to play in this set. For example, one skeleton has Leonin Skyhunter replacing Stormfront Pegasus and White Knight in white, another includes Plated Seastrider as "the defensive blue two drop" and in Green there's a two drop slot that probably goes to either Garruk's Companion or Nissa's Choosen. This could easily become a cycle across all colors to have a high powered two drop for CC. But that's probably not an environment that also supports Kird Ape, which really wants RG by the second turn.

    SO: either we design a few cards for the mechanic, then build the set around them, or we choose the reprints and then select a mechanic based on where the gaps are. One of the problems I didn't foresee with Terrain is that it forces us to design with a focus toward the Allied colored pairs. I mean, I think it's easier to ask "What is Green doing in this set" than it is to ask "What are Red/Green and White/Green doing and how can we make them feel different?" Asking what each color is doing allows the players (and us in playtesting) to see where synergies exist, instead of having to build those synergies into the initial design.

    I mean, here's a small list of the questions that occurred to me while designing skeletons yesterday: (Insert Braindump)

    Does red want a small coinflipping theme for M13?

    Is Green's game plan Dinosaurs (due to more expensive black removal) or an Overrun plan because of a lack of Sweepers?

    Does red get Incinerate, Shock, and Chandra's Outrage at common? Lightning Bolt?

    Which other staples might not be returning? Birds, Day of Judgement, Pacifism, Doom Blade, Cancel?

    Which planeswalkers are in, and what does that mean for their common and uncommon "spells"?

    What's replacing the Titans? The Lucky Charms? Uncommon Color Hosers?

    What's black's dominant tribe: Zombies or Vampires?

    What's blue's tribe? How strong do we want mill?

    If we're doing Terrain, does that include off-color creature activations?

    If we're doing Terrain, does that mean black wants fewer Swamp Matters cards or more?

    Do we want to make this format more multiplayer friendly or less? Does that matter?


    I'm not sure if those questions are comprehensible, or if they're important. I'm also not sure what the best way is to tackle them. Our current method of rambling forum posts (Like this one) leads to people missing discussions, and I've had more then a few accidentally deleted.

    Soooo yeah.

  5. Another con is, if we reprint Kird Ape errataed with Terrain, we can't reprint it in another set that doesn't use Terrain, unless Terrain becomes evergreen.

    I think Grazing Gladehart would be a good core card except it's keyworded with landfall. A similar thing could happen with Kird Ape. Not that it's a huge problem, though.

    I think Domain didn't suffer that problem because it won't be used except in a multicolor block.

  6. Yeah, we could definitely reprint Kird Ape with Terrain as an ability word. See Worldly Counsel:

  7. I don't know about that, Chah. Ability words aren't necessary for game play, so I'm pretty sure they can come on and off. I don't have an exact reference for you, but the Tombstones for flashback come to mind.

    I think Grazing Gladeheart could come back without its ability word.

  8. As ability words have no game meaning whatsoever, we can definitely reprint Kird Ape with terrain. Another set could later reprint it without, with no rules / errata repercussions whatsoever.

    Evergreen, as I understand it, refers to a keyword (or potentially ability word) that can be used in any set without being considered a feature of that set. Terrain doesn't and needn't qualify.

  9. Duncan, that list of questions is brilliant. I'm hoping to answer them through iteration. That is, we'll take a stab, account for other things, take a new stab, etc, until we're happy with the result.

    As of this moment, my gut answers (and please share your own) would be:

    Let's try a touch of coin-flipping for red (1 cmn, 1 unc, 1 rare?) and see if that's too much or too little.

    What plans can green have other than dinosaurs (like Scars) or Overrun (like M12)?

    We don't want the same suite of burn as M12, but I think it's too early to go back to the Bolt.

    My inclination is to replace every staple that's been there 3 times unless we just can't find a satisfactory replacement.

    New Walkers should stay. Old Walkers preferably not.

    What IS replacing the Titans? Damn good question. It doesn't have to be a cycle... The Charms can be replaced by anything casual and easy. Uncommon color hosers probably need to exist in some form, though if there's any core set that can skip that message, it's the one that's already pounding home the allied pairs.

    Black's main tribe is Vampires.

    Blue's main tribe is Merfolk, though it might be fun to put another Amphin in.

    How strong should mill be? It's pretty terrible in M12 so maybe it should swing back toward "possible" this time?

    Terrain doesn't include off-color activated abilities, but they could exist in the same set. I'm inclined against but it's worth considering.

    I think terrain makes black want fewer swamp-matters cards.

    If we can make the set a bit more multiplayer friendly without pissing of duel purists, that's all gravy.

  10. What about naming the mechanic in a way that provides an opportunity to teach new players about enemy / allied colours - a good idea for a core set.

    A reprint of Loam Lion with the keyword would read:

    Loam Lion - W
    Creature - Cat (Uncommon)
    Allied Terrain: Loam Lion gets +1/+2 (As long as you control a forest, Loam Lion gets +1/+2).

    I would suggest tying all allied colour effects to forests and swamps only. This is still helpful for green and black and it makes it easier for either to splash colours. This means red is the only colour to be able to participate in allied terrain on both sides but I think that's ok. Often when sets have something binary it ends up with this kind of uneven split since there are 5 colours. We saw this with Scars of Mirrodin.

    So, the templating examples would then read as

    Creature ( Blue or Red only)
    Allied Terrain—CARDNAME has deathtouch. (As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME has deathtouch.)

    Sorcery (Blue)
    Draw a card.
    Allied Terrain—Target opponent discards a card. (As long as you control a Swamp, target opponent discards a card.)

  11. Interesting, Trevor. Just to clarify, you're suggesting that there would only be terrain abilities that look at forests or swamps? So white would have 1 (g), blue would have 1 (b), black would have 0, red would have 2 (b,g) and green would have 0? Maybe doubled? Why forests and swamps? Because those are often counted? Maybe it should be plains and mountains because green is good at land-fetching (with blue and black more isolated)?

  12. Terrain is like another way of costing something.

    The pros of Terrain is:
    - Because there's an additional condition to the card, it can be undercosted for what it does.
    - The card can have abilities that belong in another color, leading to interesting combinations of abilities.
    - Because of the reasons above, exciting cards can be made, such as Wild Nacatl (undercosted) or Ogre Savant (Card advantage abilities in another colors).
    - It does this without the complications that multicolor creates.

    However, the problem is are that if we try to support this in our environment, we end up with Shards of Alara even if there are no multicolor cards.

    For example, if I'm drafting a Blue/Black deck and I see a Red card that gets better with Swamps, I will be tempted to take that, along with mana-fixers. That might lead me to pick more Red splash cards, resulting in a Grixis deck.

    On the other hand, if we provide no support for this theme (for example, no colorless mana fixing) we can get people to play mostly 2-color decks (even though people will play a single off-color land to turn on Terrain). In that case, Terrain won't affect strategy so much.

    There could be a mini-game around lands; for example, you attack with a Viridian Emmisary and the opponent thinks "do I kill it, or do I let it through to keep him off of Terrain?" But I expect it to feel very artificial and contrived. It's not as fundamentally rooted in the game as Bloodthirst's minigame of "do I block or not?"

    It's true that Terrain could be like Scry in M11, where it doesn't change the way the game plays so much. However, M11 only needed to differentiate itself from M10, whereas M13 will have more predecessors to differentiate from. M12 already has the feel of "I've seen this card before" whenever it twiddles back and forth between M10 and M11 cards. What's keeping it different is the vastly different pace (by designing around Bloodthirst) and the subthemes like Griffins etc. In future sets, the keywords may have more weight to carry.

  13. So, I was trying to think of how Terrain can intersect with strategy, in a mostly 2-color environment. I thought of this mechanic I designed before:

    Gray Shrike 2UU
    Creature - Bird
    If you control two or more Plains, ~ has first strike.
    If you control two or more Swamps, ~ has deathtouch.

    Pink Wurm 2GGG
    Creature - Wurm
    If you control two or more Plains, ~ has lifelink.
    If you control two or more Mountains, ~ has double strike.

    The card is like a convertible creature with two forms. It gives you multiple directions you can go when you see it in a booster.

    Because of the cost, usually only one of the abilities will be on. In a rare scenario, you might be able to build a Limited deck that can get both abilities together for a self-combo.

    This only affects decision-making at the drafting/deckbuilding level, but at least it is strategic.

  14. Yeah, Jay that's exactly what I was thinking and the reason is first and foremost to avoid pushing towards alara-like 3-color decks, something that would be bad for a core set to do.

    The other set of reasons all have to do with different aspects of flavour.

    First - naming: think about Loam Lion. This is a lion that differs from a desert lion in that it hangs out in somewhat earthier locales. Just like names of dual lands reflect both, creature (and spell) names are going to want to try and reflect the other land. If you're doing this as suggested there are only four combinations: white things that are forest-influenced, blue things that are swamp-influenced, and red things in both directions.

    Second - colour pie: green is the colour that has the most to do with land. It's flavourful to think of a forested plains or forested mountains having the benefits of both.

    Why swamp is a little murkier (pun intended) but actually I should say that an alternative would be to have all colours get bonuses from forests only. I think that could be implemented in a very flavourful way and would be balanced (I argue that it benefits the colour causing the bonus just as much as the colour getting the bonus because it makes splashing easier in both directions).

    However, having it all about forest bonuses is a little too focused for what a core set should be doing - it would make more sense in a forest set.

    So, if terrain anything is too complicated for a core set and terrain forests only too focussed then ockham's razor says it should be terrain two things. If so, then symmetry says to look across the colour pie at black or blue. I suggested black again because picturing spells and creatures getting a bonus from swamps than islands just seems like there are more generic core-set-ish options with swamps than islands.

    The kicker (again, pun intended) for choosing swamps though is going back to one of the real bonuses of limiting the mechanic this way - an opportunity to teach new players about allied colours and enemy colours. Black sounds like everyone's enemy, but this let's us show that it's allied with blue and red, and also that one colour can have more than one ally (since both green and black have two colours allying with it and red is allying with two colours).

    I also think that having red be the colour with two allies is better in a core set because it subtly gets across the point that red does whatever it pleases and because red is so often splashed for burn in draft anyway that I think it makes most sense to have it's splashing bonuses go in 2 directions.

    Finally, I think it also leaves open a possible extension of this mechanic in another set: enemy terrain, where the bonus comes from your opponent possessing an enemy coloured land.

  15. On adding ability words, Phosphorescent Feast did it, so we should have no issues.

    On the splashing issue, we have a major problem:
    If we don't want people playing three colors Shards style, we could discourage splashing in off-color Terrain cards that want your color by making them cheaper (and thus less impressive to get active on turn 10), but if we do we tilt the format back towards being aggressive like m12. We could solve this by making them both early and defensive, but that detracts from how cool they feel (because they don't beat face).

    My solution would be to increase the number of cards that care about their own color (Consume Spirit) so that three colors isn't worthwhile and do a double cycle at common. That way we end up with Zendikar-esque mana bases where you are heavily one color and playing the other for, in this case, Terrain cards. To help make the decks less awkward, we'd want to make the removal and late game cards less color intensive allowing drafters to start with removal and not get randomly cut off before they have a chance to read signals.

  16. These answers are helpful, but the more I think about it, the more I think we need to go simpler. Otherwise we run into chicken/egg problems where you need to design the entire set at once to make sure everything works. Instead, maybe we could just focus on White Commons? And then build off of that. They're 20 cards with fairly consistent guidelines set to set and a few people have already proposed lists. It would need to include new designs in addition to reprints (including commons with terrain). We can choose which cards we like for each slot, then design the another color with those cards in mind.

  17. My response was too long, so I posted it on the wiki:

  18. I really like all of your suggestions Nich, and most of the card designs. We could even do an evergreen keyword around Alternative Casting Cost, because that is just super annoying. And there are a lot of interesting cards that we could reprint that deal with basic lands and ACCs. It just might be too much for a Core Set. Or maybe not. Again, I think if people can post what they'd want the White m13 commons to look like (and whatever else) I think that'd give everyone a better impression about what we're working with.

  19. Definitely a lot of good thinking there, Nich, though I'll have to disagree with Duncan on the viability of alternate costs in Core Set. Maybe, just maybe, it could be ok to do an uncommon or rare cycle (perhaps the enemy-hoser cycle from Nemesis), but I'd be very concerned that ACCs engender a certain Spike-oriented environment that isn't really suited to Core Set.

    A lot of good reprint suggestions though, especially Zombie Trailblazer.

  20. You guys are awesome. Great stuff, seriously.

    While it's wise to be wary about pushing folks into three colors, I don't think anyone's suggesting cards that explicitly send a three-color message (below rare); We're sending five two-color messages. Some players will be greedy and try to run more, but that's absolutely going to happen regardless. Terrain will give them a bit more incentive to do so but not a dangerous amount. Suggestions like providing two-color fixers but not three- or five-color fixers, and cards that reward playing one color (or two allied colors) heavily should help counteract that (like Corrupt or Garruk's Companion).

    Trevor, you make a compelling argument. I have to admit that assymetrical design is not my strong point (because I tend toward OCD and love symmetry), so I'm hoping less-biased team members can chime in with another perspective on your suggestion. Absolutely worth discussing, that much I know.

    Duncan's proposal to try to design one color )both the terrain cards and not) seems solid enough, assuming we stick with the symmetrical plan. There really are a lot of ways to skin a cat, eh?

    Nich, wow. GREAT stuff. More than we can probably use, and that's a very good thing. Not sure when the page moved, but the link in your comment isn't quite right. Here's the page in question:
    This comment is long enough so I'll post my individual responses at the bottom of that wiki page.

  21. I think limited would benefit from each color not getting a equal number of allied color Terrain+ cards.

    (As an aside, Terrain+ is my shorthand for cards with Terrain, Cards that count two land types, or whatever else we design to support two color pairs.)

    Imagine this limited scenario where each color equally supports its ally colors. Pack one pick one you snap up a White card that wants you to control Islands. But in pack two you find another White card which this time supports playing Forests. You have no idea which way you’ll go, so you take it. This kind of action signals that you’re in White, but not your support color. Meanwhile the guy to your Right lost a Green card he could have used for his GW deck. As things move along, if you continue to float between GW and WU the urge to play gWu becomes really compelling. You grab all the color fixers you can and make a three color deck centered around White. We don’t want to create a play environment like this.

    I propose we make each color favor one of its allies 2:1. Yes, in constructed this means a GW deck that uses the Terrain+ mechanics will have something like 16 green cards and 8 white ones. I’m okay with that. Imagine the draft scenario again: Pack one pick one, I’ll know that if I take the White card that supports Islands I am really likely to stick in those two colors. And pick two’s alluring White card with Forest support won’t help my deck out, so I’ll grab something else, anticipating I’ll see the cards to support my color combo. And several turns later I won’t feel like making a three color deck is my only choice.

    I really think this is how you support an Ally theme for limited. And since Kird Ape, goes clockwise, I suggest that’s the direct we go for our 2:1 ratio.

  22. @Nich, I don't understand:

    - Double-counting cards encourage 2-color decks. Terrain cards, if left unchecked, encourage splashing lots of off-color lands. They work in opposite directions. When you put them together and say Terrain+ cards will have a certain effect, I can't tell which one you're talking about.

    - It seems that a person drafting Green + Plains would just pick good cards from both Green and White. Why would he draft 16 Green cards and 8 White cards?

    - Even if there are no Green + Mountain cards to lure the Green + Plains drafter, he could still be lured by White + Island cards. He could even be lured by a Red + Forest card - if it has a splashable cost.

    - I don't understand the 2:1 skewering plan. Why would it divert players from expanding their colors in certain directions? In your example, why would he not pick the White card with Forest support?

    - A lot of the support cards proposed so far, such as creatures that change a land's land type, seem to imply using it to get a third basic land type for Terrain, because it's really not that needed for 2-color decks. What do you think about their positioning?

  23. Also Nick, if we go counterclockwise for common and clockwise for uncommon, than there will be more White+Forest cards going around the table than Green+Plains, even if there is the same number of cards we create.

  24. One thing to watch is the role of Terrain as static boosts (like Kird Ape) compared to as triggered abilities – "When ~ ETB/deals combat damage" etc. – it's not a big difference, but it could have further interaction if we have a lot of (especially instant-speed) land-type changing.
    I would keep any basic-land-type-altering effects to Sorcery speed at common for sure and in general overall, as to drastically reduce complexity for new players.

    But I may be overthinking this distinction.

  25. I'm extending the "deadline" for this task, by at least two days. Not because we need it and more because I've been too busy for a proper update.

    Regarding three color decks: we actively want that to happen. We don't want to promote it, mind you, but if our set were built to force two color play, we'd be down from ten or fifteen draft archetypes to five. I say fifteen because, as hard as it us to pull off, it would be nice to enable mono-colored decks too (splashing lands for terrain, not unlike Shadowmoor).

    All that said, we want dual lands rather than tri-lands because three color decks are an option, not a suggestion. Similarly we should strongly question my proposal to put bi-directional terrain cards in even at rare. The message of our theme is about the color alliances and that doesn't preclude such cards, but they could send a dangerous signal to players that an M13 deck should be able to support both sides of it without trouble. While three color should be possible, it shouldn't be easy or safe.

  26. @Jay: Okay, sounds good. I will be extra mindful of this when we playtest limited. (Which I am very excited to do.)

    @Pasteur Agreed with the ETB effects, although my thought is we want each allied pair to play differently, so if one of them (like U/B) gets some one shot bonuses it's okay. As for land-type changing effects, I predict we'll end up with one blue one, maybe one black one and MAYBE one land/artifact.

    @Rourke Yes, that's right, but it will contine that way around the color wheel. We'd be supporting Wu, Ub, Br, Rg, and Gw.

    @Chan It's harder to explain than I thought. The 16 cards and 8 card idea was for a Constructed deck with four times 4 green cards and four times 2 white cards.

  27. A possible structural approach would be to have the Terrain Commons all be virtual vanilla (like the Hedge-Mage cycle from Shadowmoor), then have the Uncommons possess static P/T or Keyword changes, and lastly more dramatic effects on the Rares.

    As to limited considerations, I don't think certain high level concerns such as "what should successful mana bases look like?" are all that relevant at this stage. You should all just busy yourself designing interesting cards that feed a given vision, then cull detrimental aspects during "development". If X months in the future it seems like things are overly "shard" based, start revising. But doing so now is a bit preemptive.

  28. @metaghost: I knew someone would say what you're saying sooner or later. I think we all agree that it's too early, but it's hard not to think about when designing. And it seemed like clarification was needed from Jay as to what kind of focus he wants with these Terrain designs.

    And we can't just design blindly without some direction. For example, what kind of deck should GW be? What about WU? I don't want to waste time designing a weenie for the GW combo if that pair will be focused more on midgame, protection, and big creatures. I'll make the weenie for WU instead.

  29. Here's how I see it breaking down: you want enough Terrain enablers to support 10+ draft archetypes. 10 with one dominant color and one secondary color GW, WG, etc. A WG deck should have a different game plan then a GW one, specifically, WG should use aggressive fliers backed by green board control cards, while GW should use aggressive midrange fat backed by white tempo and overrunesque gamebreakers. BR is a control deck focused on heavy removal, RB is more of a tight curve sligh+burn to the face. Terrain cards really support this by having a main color (The one you use to cast it) and a pump up power that comes later. UB doesn't necessary want the same cards as BU allowing for more diversity. In addition to these, we'd also expect to see Gwu and Ubw, which use some of the fixing to splash two colors, but really focuses on a single color game plan. For example, Ubw would take blue mill cards with white and black removal. These combos will take what fixing exists higher in order to enable their game plan, and force other decks at the table to go without.

    For example Jules Imp 3/1 terrain flying for 3 fits great in an aggro fliers BU deck, is a good curve card for a RB aggro, or even fit in an aggro Bru build. But it isn't going to be that good as a late game splash for the UB control deck, and might just be an OK blocker for BR control.

  30. Nice break down, Duncan.
    I'd rather make a permanent with a leaves-the-battlefield terrain effect than an ETB (both would work too).
    With some luck, we'll be playtesting the white deck as early as next weekend.
    Good call on keeping common land-type-changing effects at sorcery speed, pasteur.

  31. @Nich - The slight flaw in your thought process that you've posted right there is that there is no wasted effort; if you design a weenie for GW, only to have GW not be the appropriate pairing for your design, you simply adapt and apply what you've learned to a new design.

    @ Jay - Why a preference for Leaves-the-battlefield triggers? LTB effects are a bit quirky outside of Evoke, sac effects, and O-Ring type ETB+LTB.

  32. Metaghost, are you posting to the docs? I don't know your actual name.

    @Jay/Metaghost I really like the Die triggers idea. They are a bit quirky, but they create this cool design space where you can cast a creature without Terrain, hoping to turn on the Die trigger before it gets killed. Or, you hold on to it until you can be sure to get the Die trigger no matter what. The neatest thing about terrain is the ability to play them early, then power them up later. This makes them feel different from Gold/Ogre Savant/Bloodthirst cards, and a bit more newbie friendly.

    More on the breakdown of limited:
    A nice thing is that we really don't have to overly concern ourselves with making sure that there are two distinct archtypes per color. The skeleton does that for us! The core set has always been designed to give each color some aggressive cards and some controlling cards. It's a good mix, and some cards play dual roles to varying degrees of success.

    That's why I think it's important to describe where your designs fit into the skeletons we've made for the various sets.

    What I worry about is guys that lend themselves too easily to either mode. Grizzly bears that turn into Giant Spiders, for example, are basically "color bleeds" in that they give decks too much flexibility to play either game. One of the reason Removal spells are so good is that they are so versatile in either archetype. But having creatures that are flexible in the same way threatens to blur that line. I'm not sure what other people think about this, and it's not something I've seen touched on elsewhere. But I think it's probably important for a limited format defined by synergy instead of bombs.

  33. @Duncan
    I love how in M11, every two-color combination had at least two directions it could go. I don't think its just a gimmick to do once in a while, rather it's a note that just about every set should try to hit.

    It was great when Centaur Courser and the 2/1 deathtouch spider were removed from Green because they're just good in every deck. I love cards that fit different roles in different archetypes, yet are not universally great.

  34. @ Duncan - For now, I'm just serving my part as editor of GA and offering guidance where I can. As of yet, I've posted nothing to the other docs.

  35. @Duncan - The versatile creature point is a good one, but we should be careful with green. Other colors are easy to stay open in at the start of the draft because you can pick removal, but if we leave green without universally powerful early picks it will end in disappointment for the person who drafted a strong fatty for their Gr Fatties + Burn deck only to end up in Wg fliers.