Thursday, August 25, 2011

M13 Returning Mechanic

Let's continue the discussion of which mechanic to bring back for 2013. This decision is going to have a huge impact not just on the overall quality of the set, but on a lot of the decisions that get made across the set. Bloodthirst didn't just get slapped on some black and red cards, it made the whole set fast, so blue and white had to adjust to keep up.

First off, cycling is out for sure. No question. I realized this last night: as good as cycling is for the game, no mechanic has less resonance. It's purely mechanical. It does great things for the game, but it doesn't feel like anything. That's not remotely acceptable for a core set. Kudos to Alex for calling me out on that.

Convoke is a solid mechanic. I can't find it for the life of me, but Mark Rosewater listed it in his top three keywords from Ravnica last week. It makes some thematic sense and it encourages folks to play their creatures. On the other hand, it's a cost-reduction mechanic: something that appeals to Spike but not so much to Timmy or Johnny. I feel like core sets are aimed slightly more toward Timmy than average, but we could theoretically choose a mechanic that appeals to Spike and then just skew the rest of the set toward Timmy and Johnny.

While Chah is right that we can't limit ourselves to exactly what has been done before—since part of the identity of the new core sets is innovating a little bit each time—Alex isn't wrong that we would do well to heed the guidelines R&D has set for itself. This is going to be a tricky line to walk. It's tricky enouch for R&D to walk, I'm sure, but walk it we must.

Entwine is too complex because it's a step beyond modal spells, something that is already pushing the line for a core set.

is way too complex for a core set. Seriously, we don't even get to the crazy rules issues because the new player is still trying to parse "add this card's effects to that spell."

Buyback is simple enough, but has repetitive gameplay and is nearly as devoid of flavor as cycling.

Let me interrupt myself here to make an important point. I'm not going to waste your time adding "I think" and "Maybe" to every statement I make, but that doesn't make them infallible. I have confidence in my opinions, but I'm also being a bit bolder in my assertions to keep things moving along. If I dismiss an idea, it's probably not worth considering further but I can be wrong. I've already been wrong. If I say something completely wrong or even just partially wrong—provided that correcting me will actually help the project—correct me. That caveat is important because Magic players can spend weeks discussing semantics. The difference between "mechanic is bad" and "mechanic is terrible" is not productive, but the difference between "cycling is good for the game" and "cycling has no flavor" is.

Is rebound too complex? If a card like Distortion Strike can be common, Prey's Vengeance is probably only uncommon because the common growth slot was taken by Might of the Masses. The bigger question is how much flavor does it have? It's a spell that happens twice or a larger spell that is divided over two turns. Classify that as weak (but extant) flavor for now?

I don't know about gating. Literally: I'm unfamiliar with it because I wasn't playing during its time. I've played with it once or twice and it seems decent; I don't find it exciting, but I'll lean on those who are familiar with it to tell me why you love it (or not)? What is the flavor? That part stumps me, and that's not a great sign. If we did use gating, would we use the original or the revised version (Dream Stalker, Kor Skyfisher).

Kicker and replicate are pretty intuitive, I think. Pay Not dripping with flavor, but it makes sense that if you pay more, you get more. Kicker obviously has a ton of possible executions and I'm optimistic that we can find one that is straight-forward enough for a core set. I want to say Replicate leads to repetitive play, but I don't think it really does. It's basically just a strict form of multikicker. It's not out of contention, but I think kicker beats it for the same slot.

Flashback is a powerful mechanic that I personally enjoy immensely. It has the same amount of flavor as rebound, but it's also a bit harder to play because you have to choose when to get the second copy and you also need to remember that it's in your graveyard at all. We're pushing the complexity line, but I think we're not stepping over it. Same for retrace.

Exalted and Battle Cry are strong possibilities. They're both very simple, fully flavored and encourage attacking. The only reason I wouldn't select one of these straight off is the suggested tactic of choosing a spell mechanic, which I'm not married to but do like.

Devour wasn't a popular mechanic because it felt bad in all but the most extreme cases, the ones where the act of devouring your own guys managed to net you card advantage. Having more creatures in the set that reward you for sacrificing them could have helped, but even with that insight, devour is not a basket I want to put my eggs in.

Persist is pretty neat. Decent flavor. Feels good to bring your guys back. A little tricky when a persist creature with an aura dies (does the aura come back). But the biggest factor is the -1/-1 counter. I'm not saying there can't be a core set with -1/-1 counters, but it would be a bold choice indeed.

Channel, evoke, madness and transmute all basically offer alternative methods to use your card, not unlike cycling. Channel and evoke are basically "get the creature's effect w/o the cost of the creature." Madness is a wacky twist on cost reduction. Transmute is basically CC-cycling. All of these reward some pretty high-level skills and I don't feel confident that new players will be able to enjoy them.

Ninjitsu and prowl are fun little tricks that reward attacking. Ninjitsu is confusing with "ETB tapped and attacking" bit as well as being very Japanese-themed. Prowl could work. Sometimes its cost reduction, but sometimes its extra effect. We could focus more on the latter. Its a thought.

Split Second is of interest only to players who appreciate the back-and-forth of instant responses. It'll just confuse new players.

Threshold requires counting. Its not hard counting, but still. It also requires the new player to care about his graveyard; players are not accustomed to worrying about The Discard Pile. I'm not saying threshold is off the list, but it's near the bottom.

Does echo feel like a drawback? I'm seriously asking. To me, it doesn't. I see a cheap creature with echo and I see a decent body with a refreshing alternate casting method. But I can see how another player would see it as a drawback: "Man, look at the body for the price... wait I have to pay twice?!" Also, low flavor.

Forecast is awesome and I can't wait for them to bring it back. It's grokkable and powerful with medium flavor, but it also encourages repetitive play and might be too skill testing. What do you think? (Heh: After adding the card image I saw how much text forecast required. That might knock it out of contention all by itself.)

Since I wrote this, Alex suggested allies as the returning mechanic. Nice. Not only would fans of allies be ecstatic to see more printed, but I think they're a perfect fit for a core set, both in flavor and complexity. Top of the list.

Finally, we've got domain and sunburst, both of which complement multicolor very well without requiring it. I'm pretty 'eh' on domain, but let me know if you love it (and why). Sunburst has real potential. We needn't limit it to artifacts, like Fifth Dawn. Frankly, my biggest concern is that it doesn't reinforce ally-color pairs as more natural than enemy-color pairs. We could modify it so that they do and we would use kicker to do it.

Here's the list as I currently see it, in approximate order of viability:

Kicker, Exalted, Battle Cry, Sunburst, Allies, Rebound, Prowl, Forecast, Persist, Echo, Gating, Convoke, Flashback, and Threshold.

What on that list should we just nix right now?

That's all I've got on topic for now, but I also want to say that I'm really impressed with the color analyses that have been done so far and with the quality of comments I've been seeing. Keep up the great work. Person3412's point that it only takes a few cards to capitalize on a feature like "Are you feeling lucky" is well made. Let's not forget either half.


  1. I vote to nix the following: convoke, kicker, threshold, flashback, and to a lesser extent echo and prowl.

    I already related my dislike for convoke in the last blog. In a nutshell, I think it requires too much support to be a good fit for a core set mechanic. However, I could easily see a couple of good card designs that change my mind: I really don't like a majority of the convoke cards from Ravnica.

    I like kicker mechanically, but definitely not thematically. It has a pretty low flavor in comparison to the other mechanics.

    Threshold has the counting issue, although I think that it teaches new players about the multiple resources available to them. We would need good designs for cards like this too, as many old cards with threshold had extremely weird flavor and/or effects.

    Flashback is only because of Innistrad. I think there is very little doubt that it will make a return. Either way, we will find out Monday whether it is the returning mechanic for IST.

    My issue with Prowl is the creature-type restriction. I would embrace an open mechanic like the following:
    Hunt X -- You may cast ~ for its Hunt cost if you dealt combat damage to a player this turn with a creature that shares a type with ~.
    That seems like an awesome mechanic to me as it is essentially a mashup of Prowl and Kinship. The set would have to be a little more tribal, but the push wouldn't be that hard to do as M12 was already decently tribal-friendly (Illusions, Adaptive Automaton).

    Echo just seems like a very Spike mechanic. Considering echo was used before to get creatures as powerful as creatures are today without echo (compare Pouncing Jaguar to Wild Nacatl and Multani's Acolyte to Elvish Visionary), we would have to jack up the power level even further to have echo cards see real play. I don't really like the sound of that.

    The other mechanics are mostly okay with me. I have doubts about some, but not as strong as the above mechanics have with me.

  2. Okay, Convoke's out.

    While it's never been stated like you did with Hunt, Prowl has always worked basically the same way. They just list the creature types explicitly. Only difference is if a creature gains or loses creature types during play.

  3. Something worth nothing: Allies and Gating are a natural pair. And again, since gating isn't actually something needs to be keyworded, it could just be a mechanic that appears in more abundance than it has in recent years.

    As to the specific topic, Forecast is a pretty easy nix in terms of complexity, as adding step-restricted activated abilities played from your hand is an unusual arena for sure.

    Flashback is in Innistrad, Buyback is lame and degenerate, Echo is a drawback mechanics, and Battle Cry is absolutely uninteresting. Kicker is awesome but flavorless, Prowl is a cost-reduction mechanism with a particular flavor not quite suited to core set, and Threshold is known to be less-than-ideal. Plus, it would be an example of compatibility with the previous set, moreso than New Ravnica.

    I would consider Sunburst and Allies to be the top candidates, with Rebound and Persist as workable.

  4. I agree with a lot of what has been posted about the other mechanics already.

    I don't dislike Allies, but so many of their cards have Zendikar specific names that easy reprints (Umara Raptor or Oran-Rief Survivalist) are really hard to justify flavorwise, and making functional reprints seems a little lame. And possibly harmful to older formats.

    Sunburst is interesting, but really doesn't cement the colors natural abilities that well. It's also been exclusively on artifacts for the natural reason that it's confusing that a card cosing 2U with sunburst already sunbursts for 1 naturally.

    That said, what might be interesting is a Colored Mana matters mechanic. Something like Ogre Savant, Flash Conscription, or Ribbons of Night. This has the advantages of Sunburst in encouraging multicolored decks, while not requiring them like gold cards. It also isn't restricted to +1/+1 counters or charge counters like Sunburst. The reprints are Ravnica flavored, but don't use Ravnica specific names. It'd need an ability word: Augment?

    A final one to consider is a re-themed Bushido. This is a simple, awesome combat mechanic, that could easily be used here. We'd just need to call it Battle Rage or Close Combat. Renamed reprints wouldn't have the negative effects of renaming allies to reprint, and it could easily be expanded to other colors.

  5. Regarding allies, there were 10 M12 cards with Bloodthirst: 5 commons, 3 uncommons, and 2 mythics. In addition, there were a bunch of enablers like Goblin Fireslinger etc. There were 19 Allies in Zendikar (11 more in Worldwake) with 9 commons, 5 uncommons and 5 rares. Obviously, Bloodthirst was only in three colors and Allies in all five, but the Ally count was still double that of the Bloodthirster count. Allies would assuredly define the format if we had similar numbers to Zendikar. But Zendikar also had the aggressive landfall creatures and excellent removal to fight over and M13 would need something similar to provide enough tension during drafts. The great thing about Bloodthirst was that the enablers didn't need to be keyworded: a player pinger for R could easily go into any core set ever. Would an Ally? A gater? I'm not so sure, but I think that it is too soon for the mechanic to come back anyway.

    While Sunburst is a little confusing on nonartifacts, it is definitely workable and certainly ties well into both Mirrodin (thematically) and Ravnica (mechanically). I also like Persist and Retrace a lot too. Retrace feels good for a core set mechanic to me: a very simple ability for newbies to understand and definitely a potential source for Spike cards. I'd say Retrace is my frontrunner ahead of Exalted, Persist, Sunburst, and Gating.

  6. This is probably a dangerous thought to share, but we've come several times to this-mechanic-would-be-great-if-it-were-different and it's an interesting idea even if it's not applicable here.

    The reason that core sets are cycling through keyword mechanics is for variety. The restriction of using existing mechanics has nothing to do with that, it's just an efficient use of design resources. Why develop a great new mechanic that could be a major focus of a three-set block for use one time in a core set?

    But what about a mechanic that could only ever live in a core set? A mechanic that is perhaps a touch simple for use in an expert set—at least not in significant volume. Like Duplo to Lego. I'm not describing this very well, so here's the example:

    Instead of Sunburst which Duncan points out could be a touch confusing on colored cards, or Sunburst-esque version of Kicker I described earlier, we created Infuse (Suffuse, Weave, whatever) to do exactly what we're thinking:

    Strength of Spirit cmn
    Target creature gets +3/+3.
    Infuse R—Another target creature gains first strike. (If you spent R casting ~, add its infuse ability.)

    Terrible. Okay, not only did I steal MTGColorPie's mechanic (and castrate it, for simplicity's sake), I keyworded something that doesn't need a keyword.

    Even though that's a bad example, maybe it illustrates what I meant. I think we should avoid this tactic if we can, but at least be aware that it's an option.

  7. Here's the mechanics I like in order from most to least Part 1

    Prowl: There were only like 10 cards with Prowl the first time around and there's a lot of fun design space left. Morningtide had a lot going on and Prowl never really got it's due. It doesn't command a large number of cards to work. It can be used on permanents and spells (although you'd need to be willing to out the Tribal type in a Core Set for spells.) I also like that it rewards players to attack and motivates new player's to cast spells after their attack phase. Another thing I like about it is that is supports tribal (little t) in a way.

    Threshold: I like threshold. It gives players something to work towards and look forward to. Is can also be answered (unlike poison) with graveyard hate, so it feels fair. I would want to set a different number this time around. Seven was too high for even contructed Threshold decks the first go around. The biggest issue I can see is that Flashback is in INN, so for a while it would feel like Odyssey block all over again.

    Allies: I like mechanics that can be used in all five colors. And I liked Allies a lot in Zendikar. If we do a creature based mechanic this is a good choice. For the record I would prefer one that can be used with both spells or creatures.

    Forecast: Aside from being really wordy, my gripe with Forescast is that it rewards players who hoard cards in hand. But given how few cards would have it, that's not a big deal. And we would just have to make the Forecast effects worth so new players don't feel bad about the choice. The best thing about it is that it has a good flavor but the flavor doesn't tie it to only a specific color. I could see Forecast used in any of the five colors. That is very exciting.

    Exalted: Exalted is good. It tells a cool story and dictates specific types of play. And it can be put on permanents, not just creatures, which is good. The best thing about it is that it is White centered. Neither Scry or Bloodthirst were on White cards, so its nice to think this time around the color focus will shift to a new part of the color wheel.

    Sunburst: This would be a clever way to add dimension to possible gold cards in the next Block. And I agree it would need to be used on more than just artifacts. One problem is the flavor - it was strongly tied to the suns of Mirrodin. What does Sunburst mean in a different setting?

    Gating: Gating would have a very different feel the second time around in a non-multicolor set. This would allow us to amp up the effects somewhat. And it would be a nice addition to possible gold cards in the next Block. I don't like that it requires you to bounce back creatures specifically. But it could be tweaked for spells too: "As an additional cost to cast NAME, return a COLOR creature you control to its owner's hand."

  8. The keywords I like from favorite to least part 2.

    Kicker: I'm not a fan of kicker for Core set. As stated, it has no solid flavor. Also, a lot has already been done with it and to it (WotC states they like it better as "do more of the same" instead of what we saw in Invasion.) On the other hand it would be easy to make kicker cards that are simple for new players. We could also tweak it like the cycling triggers from Onslaught "Whenever a card is kicked, EFFECT."

    Convoke: I agree with everything said about Convoke already. I do like that it can be used with spells as well as permanents. I would say its mostly a skill testing mechanic though as the potential it shows for cheap or free spells will attract new players. This keyword could also lead to a very interesting limited archetype.

    Battle Cry: There's nothing wrong with it as an evental Core visitor. And like Prowl, it was printed in a Block that was doing a lot of other things. I don't think now is the time to bring it back. It's too recent. Also, it's a creature focused mechanic and I'd prefer one that can be used on spells.

    Rebound: I don't think the effects it provides are worth the complexity of the rules baggage that comes with Rebound. Unlike other complex mechanics (Morph) these cards aren't going to be exciting or innovative. They will all feel pretty straigtforward. Now may be we'll be able to make cards with Rebound that play in dynamic and interesting ways, but it'll be tough.

    Echo: Echo is a difficult keyword to use and I feel that what was done with it in Time Spiral block sort of showed how played out it is. I don't think many people would be excited by it return and I don't think it will be easy to make simple designs using it.

    Persist: It's a creature specific keyword and uses -1/-1 counters. I don't it for what we are hoping to do.

    Flashback: This is straight out. It is absolutely being used in Innistrad. Cards with it have already been spoiled.

  9. Touching on prowl, I love the idea of using it in a Core Set but it is way too similar to bloodthirst to be in M13 I think. There's not enough contrast between them.

    I hadn't thought about trying to narrow the focus to spell mechanics, that does seem like a logical idea. The only problem is finding a simple, flavorful one, which is easier said than done. Rebound could work... but really pushes hard at the complexity threshold I think. Casting things from exile, and distinguishing between that and casting from hand, isn't exactly something I'd be enthused seeing at low rarities.

    Thanks for backing the Allies suggestion, though I hadn't considered the factor of set size/space when I did so. The flavor is awesome for sure, but it is a good point that there needs to be a critical mass of them in order to function well, and that might be taking up too much room in the set (unless we use simple Allies to fill in some of the simpler creature slots, like the typical Griffins and such).

  10. Threshold is complicated and requires counting. Echo, although I also like it, read like a drawback and is complicated to boot. I like battle cry, Allies and rebound, but I'm not sure we should be bringing back mechanic that came out for the first time after Alara.

  11. Based on the above comments, here's where I see the list (again, in order of likely use):

    The Ogre Savant Ability or Sunburst, Exalted or New Bushido, Rebound, Prowl, Allies, Kicker, Gating, Battle Cry, Persist

    Bushido. I'd hate to rename an existing mechanic just to make it evergreen/core-set-worthy BUT if ever a mechanic deserved that treatment, it's bushido.

    No one's talked much about exalted. It's definitely reprintable and plenty flavorful, but while it encourages attacking it also encourages chump-blocking and ground stalls. Is it safe to say we'd rather rename bushido than use exalted?

    Benjamin makes several really good point against Allies. We either reprint Oran-Rief Recluse with the Zendikar-specific name (not disallowed in a core set, but iffy at best) or we make functionally different (and therefore dangerously redundant) cards or strictly different ones. Either way we have to be super careful not to make Allies too good in Modern, yet still good enough for our set. We also have to keep the numbers low enough the rest of the set can shine through, but high enough to make this parastic mechanic actually work.

    New thought for sunburst. Sorceries and Instants with sunburst don't do anything outside of the sunburst ability. That should make it clear that the colored portion of the mana cost does count. "2U Sunburst—Draw a card for each color of mana spent."

    Duncan, why do you say the Ogre Savant ability needs an ability word? Because we need some kind of new keyword or ability word to help people notice the mechanic?

    I agree with Nich that Prowl has a LOT of untapped potential. I'm focused more on the kicker like effects of cards like Notorious Throng than the cost reduction effects. Even so, Alex is probably right that it's too much like Bloodthirst though. In different colors?

    How hard is rebound, really? If you look under the hood, there's some wonky stuff, but I think a new player could get "get this spell again for free at the start of your next turn."

    Great points and suggestions, guys.

  12. Prowl seems unique and grokkable enough to be worth additional consideration.

    Sunburst would be excellent but I worry about added complexity coming with any adaptability. Maybe put it on all artifacts in the set but only artifacts? (Or colorless instants and sorceries?)

  13. I think it's dangerous to make assumptions like "a new player could probably understand X." If we were real designers we'd actually have market research and player feedback telling us how many people find it easy/hard to understand, and at what skill levels they are at. But we don't have that data, so I personally prefer to err on the side of caution and find something that is *definitely* simple enough to work, rather than something that is *maybe* simple enough to work.

    I do like Exalted but agree that the style of gameplay it creates might not be the best idea for an introductory setting. It functions quite differently from "typical" combat, and does encourage ground stalls if not used carefully.

    A re-named Bushido could work quite well. I don't have much experience with it but players who played a lot of Kamigawa limited have mentioned that it made for a very interesting environment in that format.

    I wouldn't be totally averse to the "enhanced" spell mechanic (what Ogre Savant has) and agree that it doesn't *have* to be keyworded. It would be nice to do so, though, if only for ease of communication when referring to that kind of card. If used we should only use the Ravnica and Guildpact versions of it, and leave out the stranger Dissension style.

  14. Just so no one gets too worried about me making a hasty decision, I want you to know that the next assignment will be to design cards for each of the finalist mechanics to see what looks/feels right and what doesn't.

    If we go with something iffy, we'll playtest it with new/casual/inexperienced players before calling it final. (And even a final decision could change if early tests of the first complete draft show we're going down a wrong path, but that would obviously set us back on the timeline.)

  15. And those were just the ones I liked based on the article. I hope this deosn't make a complicated decision even more complicated but here are my favorite keywords for a Core that haven't been mentioned yet.

    Flip Cards: I really see flip cards working for Core because they have an outstanding visual impact, a sliding scale of complexity that allows for Core appropriate cards, are not linear (or require any other cards to work,) and need redemption since they kinda sucked the first time around (The legendary aspect could be taken off for sure.)

    Split cards: Like flip cards these are great because they look awesome. They can be extremely simple in implementation. There are lots of name ideas left. Remember, they don't have to be multicolor, but could be without requiring use of a gold border.

    Ripple: Ripple was an exciting concept that didn't pan out. I like it for core set because a lot was learned from its use in Coldsnap, it has tweaks left unexplored the first time around. It is a resonant idea. And most of all it's not linear.

    Slivers: I love love love Slivers and would be happy to try them in a Core set. They are linear though and can effect limited in bad ways. "I don't want to play this card because it will make my opponent's cards better." Still there is a lot of design space left for them and I can see ideas across all rarities that would excite all the different player psycographics.

  16. Why was Patagia Viper flying and green while its tokens were nonflying and blue-green?! Argh!

  17. Which ones to nix?

    Kicker and Battle Cry are still a little new. The Sunburst/Mana Color Counts thing can sub for Kicker without being Kicker though.

    Threshold teaches new players that having stuff in your graveyard isn't all bad. It can even teach them that their graveyard is a resource. That said, if Innistrad is using Flashback, that makes Threshold trickier, since they don't exactly compliment one another.

    Exalted and Bushido are attack triggers that reward different types of play. Which one best compliments SoM, Innistrad, and the M13 environment you're making?

    Rebound, Echo, and Forecast are all upkeep triggers, which can be tricky to remember. In addition Echo has the rider about changing control, which is counterintuitive, even if it only comes up with something like Mind Control. I've never seen flavor text on Forecast, which says a lot. The trick with all of these-for new players-is remembering them. Maybe a more streamlined version would be in order? Maybe a once-a-turn trigger based on player actions(attack, draw, etc.)?

    I would recommend something like Retrace, which might be confusing in an environment with Flashback, but does give new players a chance to be happy to draw a land late in the game.

  18. Dissension enhanced spells had bodies that were the color of their "off" color and effects that were part of their normal color. Therefore, white unblockable creature, black double striker, etc. It's a bit weird, yeah, and exactly why that should NOT be used in core.

    Slivers are super-popular but very insular to the Magic property. Allies are very similar but more accessible to the outside, and are "all upside" by comparison.

  19. Slivers are too weird for a core set. I know a lot of people love them, most of those who love allies and more, but the last thing that's going to keep a new player coming back for more is one-armed, faceless, communist snake-things. We really want to focus on the fantasy tropes everyone will recognize.

    A few folks have mentioned retrace. Like flashback, retrace means you almost have to treat your graveyard like a second hand, keeping track of what you can cast from it, expanding your choices for what to cast each turn and requiring you to pay attention to your opponent's graveyard as well. That's not all bad, of course, but it important. Retrace also has potential for repetitive game states. How do you design a retrace card that's good enough to play and consider retracing, but not so good that you automatically retrace it whenever you can? I'm sure its possible and I'd like to see some attempts later, but I'm not overly optimistic.

    Flip cards and split cards, like hybrid are too special for a core set. Wizards likes to save things that splashy for expansions. Even without, they're really freaky and could scare away new players pretty quick.

    Does Ripple work in a large set? I know it was designed to take advantage of the triple small set draft environment, so I'm skeptical. But if it does work at this scale, I'd certainly consider it.

  20. Discussion about Ripple from the person who designed it:

  21. Does ripple have design space that has been left untapped? I am sure that we can figure out something for it, but I think that Rebound is more draftable than something that rewards multiples.

    I can easily see Ripple appealing to new players as well as most of the psycographics. The ability feels very blue though, and I don't know if we want another blue centered ability right after scry.

  22. You know guys, as much fun as it is brainstorming like this, I'm finding it difficult to find time to actually devote to doing that card analysis that I had signed up for before, between a new semester of school starting and my responsibilities at MTGSalvation, among other things. Rather than stretch myself even thinner I think I'd like to step down from being a full team member, and continue to act in an advisory/assistance capacity as available, if someone else is willing to step up and do an analysis of the black core set cards so work can move forward.

    Sorry to disappoint, but real life has to take precedence I'm afraid. I honestly do love this stuff.


    In this Savor the Flavor article Doug discusses the idea of Magic exclusive creatures and how they differ from fantasy tropes like Elves and Dragons. He calls those tropes core-set-friendly. But I think it's a bad idea to dismiss Slivers as "too weird." Magic should be in the business of selling its own mythology. Besides, we've already seen some examples of Magic exclusive creatures in modern core sets.

    Why are Rhox Pikemaster and Stonehorn Dignitary randomly Rhino Soldiers?

    Viashino Spearhunter looks like a lizard man, but it's a Viashino. What the heck is that?

    Enormous Baloth and Obstinate Baloth - what's a Baloth?

    Ornithopter is a Thopter, whatever that is.

    Vengeful Archon and Archon of Justice are both whatever an Archon is.

    Armored Cancrix - what the what?

    Amphin Cutthroat is a Salamander Rogue. Salamander?!?

    It's true players might get confused by these magic exclusives, but you know what will trump that? Resonant flavor. Slivers, for example, might be unique creatures but mechanically they respresent any hive-mind you'd find in other IP's. Plus they have a consistant and well designed look making them pretty easy to identify. The same could be said about Spikes, Vedalken, Kithkin, Kavu, Oni, Myr or Thrulls.

  24. I would nix:
    Forecast - The text is too long.
    Echo - I don't know, it just feels like a stressful mechanic to me. I especially hate to make the choice of not keeping the creature, which can be correct at times.
    Threshold - New players shouldn't have to be counting the graveyard, and cards with two states are an additional tier you can go to after learning normal card effects.
    Prowl - The "should I block or not block" tension is too similar to bloodthirst.

    Allies is a very good mechanic.

    I wouldn't give up on Convoke immediately. The Convoke creatures in Ravnica seem really overcosted to take into account convoke, making them boring.

    It might need some testing, but we could try an approach where we don't provide heavy token support, but the cards are just better to start out with.

    There could be creatures like Thundering Tanadon with convoke instead of Phyrexian mana, where you're happy to hard-cast on turn 6, but if you get it on turn 4 it isn't broken.

    I would make something like

    Worshipped Angel 5WW
    Creature - Angel
    Convoke, flying
    When this enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on each tapped creature you control.

    Hydra XG
    Creature - Hydra
    This enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.

    Convoke could go in many colors and have different flavor, like a goblin shaman's ritual, or a demonic cult summoning a Demon.

    Fire Ritual 10RRR
    ~ deals 13 damage to target player.

    Convoke isn't my first pick, but it's a valuable option as a spell-based mechanic that's resonant.

  25. Slivers are iconic, but I just don't see their classic design passing in a modern set. They involve all sorts of memory issues, they react poorly in a mirror and are super linear. That's not saying Magic won't return to sliver land, just that if they do I'd imagine those slivers being very different. Allies, for example solve a lot of those problems. They tend to have one time effects when they enter the battlefield, size increases are marked by counters, and they only trigger off of your allies. Slivers will undoubtably reappear, but when they do they will be different from existing breeds. And that needs a larger narrative to explain than a core set.

    Ripple- Ripple was an interesting experiment, but it failed pretty hard. I can imagine revisiting the design space of high variance spells, but ripple was just a flawed concept.

    Flip cards are super intimidating for new players, there's too much going on. Split cards seem simple, but player really want to cast both halves. The fact that Split cards can't be used for creatures is also a strike against them in my mind.

    As far as why a returning mechanic should probably have a keyword/ability word, I'd point you here:

    Thinking on the Ogre Savant question also got me thinking about Kird Ape. Very similar abilities, but the Ape has the advantage of not needing the color right away. Worldwake played with this for a cycle, but it hasn't been used on spells, and those creatures only went one direction (W>G>R>B>U). It could also be an interesting mechanic if the core set was reprinting the Allied Shock lands. Besides, Kird Ape is no stranger to core sets, even as a common.

    Since Domain is already an ability word, I'd call this one Range.

  26. I agree that the spell mechanics you list are either too flavourless or way too complex. The exception is flashback, but unfortunately it's been confirmed that flashback is coming in Innistrad, and I don't think it's sensible to search for a bunch of core-set-suitable simple flashback designs when there's a block doing the same but flashier right in parallel.

    I think creature mechanics are the way to go. Creatures and combat are the heart of most of the interactions in the game. So I'd support exalted, battle cry, persist, or bushido. I'm not a huge fan of allies, but I'd support them over many of the other options.

    On the topic of establishing how comprehensible a mechanic is, I'm not able to commit to providing large amounts of time, but I can offer occasional playtesting with a few players who have at best moderate rules knowledge.

  27. Hi, I stumbled onto this cool project, and wanted to lend a hand. I'd be willing to do the black analysis for you, Alex.

    As for the returning mechanic, I pretty much agree with AlexC. The combat mechanics seem better than the spell ones. I like Exalted the best of all the mechanics. It's simple, resonant, and effects the way players build their decks and how games play out. Bushido isn't bad, but it doesn't alter gameplay or deckbuilding all that much. Battle Cry just has no design space, and Persist seems a bit complex for a core set.

  28. I'm ok with either Exalted or Bushido. Both have great flavor, but Exalted is slightly more complex and counter intuitive. Also, like Alex said, Exalted is far from typical it might not make the best intro to Magic. The only thing that Bushido has going against it is the re-naming. That hasn't been done by WotC before (to my knowledge) but we can't let that stop us. MaRo has stated that he would rename it if he could, so why not?