Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Friendship Cards

A few days ago, I posted some cards with a mechanic called Befriend.

I decided to make some more cards with the mechanic.

I'd like to start off with a recap of the mechanic, since I changed the implementation slightly.

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Basically, you choose to put a +1/+1 counter either on the creature itself, or another creature. If you put it on another creature, that will be referred to as the "befriended creature." Most creature with befriend has an ability that benefits the befriended creature.

This ability is similar to Graft, except the counter movement is upfront and a one-shot effect, rather than moving counters over several turns. I've tried to choose sizes where sometimes it makes sense to place the counter on the creature itself, and sometimes it makes sense to place it on another creature.

Here's another example:

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This one only provides first strike for attacking, to prevent it from forming a wall of first strike.

It can be a 2-drop aggro creature, or it can be a pseudo-Aura that gives +1/+1 and first strike.

I think players like it when some of the cards in their deck have multiple modes.

Also, this card allows you to put Aura-like effects in your deck without risking card disadvantage or situationality.

There's many ways to share bonuses with befriended creatures besides sharing a keyword:

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Not all relationships are good. Here are some bad ones:

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Do you have any friends like these?

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I like how these cards let you adapt to the situation and set up combos on the fly, doing something different in every game. For example, with the Siren above, if you have a Scroll Thief, putting a +1/+1 counter on it might let it push through, and it even becomes a 2/4 vigilance blocker. In another game, the opponent might have a Giant Spider to block the Scroll Thief, so you put the counter on Giant Spider to steal it every turn. You might eventually use it as a surprise blocker on the opponent's turn by casting an instant.

When there are creatures in your deck with first strike, lifelink, vigilance, double strike, or flying, even a slight boost on them can make them significantly better, forming an incidental combo. Speaking of incidental combos:

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I had to change the wording for this one so that it can untap itself if it placed the counter on itself. If I worded it as "untap befriended creature," then it would be unclear if that counts itself since that isn't the normal English usage of the word.

The most normal way to use this Faerie is as a pseudo-vigilance flyer. It can also combo with creatures that tap for an ability, like Gideon's Lawkeeper or Prodigal Pyromancer. Or, it can tap down an opponent's creature, although that's risky because if this Faerie dies, the opponent's creature will be left with a +1/+1 counter.

Here's another one with many modes:

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This guy can make itself a 4/2 persist guy. Or, it can enlarge and protect your biggest creature. If you have a removal spell in hand, you can even use it on an opponent's creature, and try to kill it to bring it back as a Zombie under your control.

This mechanic's downside is that it may cause memory issues when played in large numbers. Players have to remember which creature is modifying which.

I think one solution would be to make a guideline that players should place the modifying creature to the right of the modified creature. The cards can have a friendship icon (two hands clasped in a handshake) on the left edge of the card, on top of an arrow pointing left, to help remember this positioning.

This positioning, along with the +1/+1 counters marking the beneficiary, should help players remember the relationships. It's fortunate that although the relationships can branch out, they never loop back in a circle.

I don't know what could be done in a multiplayer game where many relationships form accross the table. Color-coded counters? Post-its?

Overall, many resonant fantasy concepts involve a relationship between one creature and another. There's apprenticeship, spiritual possession, rider and mount, etc. There's space for many more of these cards.

Players like to set up links or connections between cards in their deck, for example with mechanics like Proliferate. I certainly enjoyed chaining together my tribal synergies in Lorwyn using the Changeling mechanic, or splicing spells with Arcane, and getting creatures back with Soulshift. I think this is a fun way to set up links between cards.


  1. It seems to me that the befriend mechanic creates two things when a creature with befriend enters the battlefield: 1) a creature (from the player's perspective), and 2) an aura (from the perspective of the creature being befriended). Was that the intent?

  2. You're right, I guess it is like an Aura + Creature.

    As you can see in the previous article about this, at first the mechanic was about summoning a creature cheaply. The drawback was that it needed a friend to keep it tethered to this world. The +1/+1 counter was just a way to show which creature was befriended, and to make it feel like that friend creature was special.

    It became more and more like an Aura + Creature as I tried to reduce downside through various iterations, and made it more about sharing abilities.

  3. I very much enjoyed this little design excursion. Lots of classic storytelling tropes are about the relationships between characters, and it's great to find ways to tell those stories in mechanical form.

  4. Here's my take:

  5. @Thanks, AlexC!

    @Duncan, good idea. I was also thinking of suggesting almost the same layout (bottom part has text that shows through when it's under another card) for face-up Lurk / Lego-bot creatures in Bradley Rose's set. That way it doesn't have to use exile.

  6. As seen by my own (failed) attempt at this mechanic (Bind Familiar from GDS2), I wholly approve this endeavor. Some of these examples are wacky and fun, but some are classic fantasy tropes that haven't been told in a satisfactory way in Magic before.

    I like that the +1/+1 counter acts not just as a marker, but as a gift that explains the friendship. "Here, I gave you this P/T boost. Wanna be friends?"

    I really dislike the option to put that +1/+1 counter on the befriending creature itself. I get that you're trying to make it suck less when there are no other good targets, but it's totally weird. Here's how weird it is:

    When you start exploring creatures with abilities that can work on themselves at the bottom of the page, you explain you can't use the keyword. Problem is, you can. There's nothing in your current definition of befriend that prevents a creature from befriending itself.

    Befriend a creature (When ~ ETB, you may put a +1/+1 counter on another target creature.)

    When ~ ETB, you may have it befriend another creature. (Put a +1/+1 counter on that creature.)

    I also happen to be of the opinion that Tingling Sprites and Lonely Necromancer shouldn't be able to target themselves. More options != better design.

    To be clear though, I love befriend overall. Good stuff.

  7. I was having trouble giving it a wording where it only counts as befriending something if it gave something if it placed a +1/+1 counter on another creature. But your wording helps.

    When ~ ETB, you may have it befriend another creature. (Put a +1/+1 counter on that creature.) Otherwise, put a +1/+1 counter on itself.

    I'm still tickled by the idea that the card it has the option of being an on-curve creature (the Pegasus is like an Assault Griffin).

    It can choose to only care about itself, or it can give up part of its power to help something else, and still be stronger overall for it, which I felt was like friendship.

    Jay, I think I was subconsciously influenced by your versatile mechanic, where you choose to get a ETB effect or a size boost.

  8. Ahhh. That makes sense and I like the flavor of that, but I really not sure that's coming through conceptually. Maybe just grab what's working (cause what's working is working great) and run with it?

    Not sure we need a card that's strictly better than Assault Griffin, after all.

    If you really want to keep that flavor, might need more explicit but bulkier text:

    "~ ETB with a +1/+1 counter on it. When ~ or another creature ETB, you may move that counter onto that creature to befriend it."