Friday, October 21, 2011

CCDD 102111—Blood Addict

Cool Card Design of the Day
10/21/2011 - Today's Tom La Pille article makes Blood Addict the perfect card to share. Before I get into that, I want to touch on the most important point he wrote about: the fact that a trope like vampires has many different aspects and that any given card can only represent one or two of those aspects. Ruthless Cullblade, Night Revelers and Bloodcrazed Neonate show three different takes on vampiric bloodlust, while Sengir Vampire and Stromkirk Patrol show a couple different takes on growing stronger by feeding, Screeching Bat and Sengir Nosferatu show transformation and so on. This is a good thing.

Even if you could fit all of a vampire's abilities onto one card, you'd be out of vampire designs instantly. More important than even keeping the card simple and preserving design space, it's actually really nice from a player's perspective to have a variety of different vampires to play with. It keeps things fresh and interesting even when you create a tribal deck. Thanks to the Magic multiverse, it's even satisfying to the Vorthos that vampires work differently on different planes. They work differently in each book and movie they appear in, so it's great that Zendikar gets one strain while Innistrad gets another.

Blood Addict is the kind of vampire that must drink blood regularly or starve to death. Ravenous Vampire is the closest existing implementation, consuming one of your own guys each turn. If you can't feed him, he becomes tapped, presumably too weak from famine to act. Bloodthrone Vampire also feeds on your own dudes, but only gets a temporary boost which in some ways actually makes more sense. If he doesn't feed, though, he'll be fine if a bit moody.

I wanted something in between. Feeding makes it bigger and starving makes it smaller. I also thought the amount of power it gains should be proportional to the amount of blood it drinks / the damage it deals.

The problem with this execution is that—barring Greatsword, Giant Growth or Hypervolt Grasp shenanigans—it's never going to deal enough damage in a turn to retain its bonus and just becomes tedious, pointless book-keeping. It also has the odd quality of being worse in multiplayer. There are a lot of cards that aren't as good in multiplayer, but this one becomes actively worse. We can do better.

This version actually stands to grow by +1/+1 each turn under normal, un-aided conditions. Much better. The fact that boosting its power makes it even better is now just gravy. But it still can't starve to death which, while unnecessary, was a big part of my inspiration in the first place.

This version is functionally identical except that it can grow weaker than its starting power and even die. Kind of an awesome way to torture a vampire to death with Claustrophobia or Pacifism. It's pretty wordy though. Definitely too wordy for core set common and pushing it even for expert common. My final iteration doesn't improve that situation, in fact it makes it worse. But as long as we're putting counters on it to start...


  1. Don't Carnophage, Sangrophage, and/or Vampire Lacerator also work this flavour from another angle? Seems "drinks blood regularly to maintain strength" can functionally be made to feed
    A) off of your life total
    B) off your opponents life total
    C) off of your creatures or
    D) off of your opponents' creatures.

    I guess black's fluff-to-crunch has always been pretty malleable, but you and Tom both make a good point about the variability of creature concept and card design.

  2. Also interesting to see that all of your designs use +1/+1 counters.

    Blood Addict 3B
    Creature Vampire
    At the beginning of your upkeep, put a -1/-1 counter on Blood Addict.
    Whenever a creature dies, remove all -1/-1 counters from Blood Addict.

  3. Good call on Crovax, Duncan. The -1/-1 version feels more downside and that could work in a -1/-1 set. I like it because I like cost/risk analysis, but the majority of players hate downside mechanics (supposedly). The dream with this version is also pretty limited: 5/5 max.

    Yeah, there are lots of things for your nasty hungry critters to feed off of, Pasteur. And thank goodness for that. They can also consume cards in hand, library or graveyard.

    Artos Kincaid suggests: "Make the Blood Addict a 1/0 with a single +1/+1 counter and haste for 2B." That works too.

  4. I always thought of Bloodthrone Vampire as a female... huh.
    I like the two 0/0 versions the best, I think. However, I don't think any of these have proper wording.

  5. I'm not sure this concept will ever make a common, but I think it makes an interesting/intuitive/elegant card for uncommon or rare.

    I like the 0/0 version, although possibly the simplicity of 1/1 version is actually better -- it's a great shame it can't actually die, but in the late game a 1/1 is fairly useless and probably can't start drawing counters again.

    I wasn't sure about X=3, but it seems to work out: assuming it attacks each turn, it attacks for 2, then 3, then 5, which is intimidating without being too overpowered.