Wednesday, October 5, 2011

M13 Cycles (1) — Chasm Drake

While the designers continue to test alternatives to the current Lair paradigm, I wanted to keep some content/discussion flowing. We've had a functional reprint of Kinsbaile Balloonist in the file as a white common since nearly the beginning. That inspired a similar card for vigilance which is fairly cute and plenty appropriate for white, but makes me wonder if we couldn't make a full cycle.

Maybe blue gets Chasm Drake, white gets Elephant Rider, black gets a horror that grants Intimidate, red gets a hound that grants haste and green gets a beast that grants trample.

We get into a few implementation issues pretty quickly. Chasm Drake is worded such that it can't target your two-headed-giant partner's creatures. Elephant Rider doesn't grant the actual keyword vigilance. If the red hound grants haste as a triggered ability when it attacks, it will already be too late for that creature to attack. While these five cards would be a cycle in spirit, they wouldn't read like one; it would be an inelegant cycle.

Fortunately, we have solutions. Greg had pointed out an alternate template for Elephant Rider in the Google Doc: "'At the beginning of combat on your turn you may have target creature gain Vigilance until end of turn' a la Battle-Rattle Shaman." That wording solves the vigilance and haste problems and could be used consistently for all five executions, solving the consistency problem... but it also reads a bit clunky. We might be able to simplify that to "At the beginning of your combat phase, target creature gains vigilance until end of turn," but I'm not sure.

Chah responded with the possibility of merging that version of the elephant with my Drowsing Rhox (a 2/4 Kor Hookmaster for 4W):

Protective Mastadon 3WW
2/4 Elephant
T: Untap target attacking creature you control and remove it from combat.

Which in turn inspired me to wonder what if these creatures had the ability and could use it in combat OR they could grant it to another creature but couldn't then attack themselves.

Elephant Mount 2W
2/2 Elephant
T: Target creature gains vigilance until EOT.

That template's not nearly as useful or as sexy as Chasm Drake's, but it is interesting. I'm not sure whether I like this path more than the free "and" version, so let me know what you think. The rest of the cycle would look something like this:

Cliffspanner Mount 2U
2/2 Drake
T: Target creature gains flying until EOT.

Terrible Mount 2B
2/2 Horror
T: Target creature gains intimidate until EOT.

Elephant Mount 2G
2/2 Elephant
T: Target creature gains trample until EOT.

That's not bad (except for the green one), but regardless of which version we go with, we should ask ourselves how it fits in the set relative to Lair. We could use this cycle to reinforce the Lair abilities by matching the ability granted to each land type's ability (so green would give +1/+2, red would give first strike and white would give lifelink*), but is that too much redundancy? We could keep it different and argue it's unrelated, but does that muddy the message? If we did use one of these, would it be common or uncommon?

*I didn't mention black because that's the Lair ability still most in contention. It's deathtouch at the moment, but I'm coming around toward it being intimidate. Deathtouch is interesting because we can make an offensive implementation on the red swamp lair card and a defensive implementation on the blue swamp lair card, but that bites heavily into our deathtouch quota for the set, particularly if we want it to appear in green at all. Intimidate doesn't offer that contrast, but it would work differently between the blue and red cards because it depends on the color(s) of the card it appears on. That would also give us our first blue creature with intimidate.


  1. I think having the double-cycle already in place at common means we don't want a third one with all exactly the same abilities. (Not sure we want another full cycle at common at all-but maybe we do.)

    Not helping the elegance of the cycle, but I would love to see at uncommon:
    Flanking Cougar 3R
    2/2 Cat
    When ~ attacks, target creature can't be blocked except by two more creatures.

    *:Deathtouch can appear on one green common, one red-swamp-lair common, and one blue-swamp-lair common without it being too much. Deathtouch in black currently looks like uncommon-or-higher. Problem solved?

  2. That's a cool cat. Not as elegant, but also interesting:
    Flanking Raptor 2R
    2/1 Lizard unc
    Whenever ~ attacks, target creature can't block this turn unless it blocks ~ and another attacking creature. It may block an additional creature this turn.

    *How weird will it be if players learn that swamps can grant deathtouch and then see deathtouch on a green common and not a black common? (Too wierd.)

  3. You know what's cool in cycles? When green gets a bigger body than the rest. Like in the Morphling supercycle or the EDH Vows.

  4. I was very tempted to give the green one:
    T: Target creature gets +1/+1 (or +2/+0) and gains trample until EOT.
    Making it bigger on its own is definitely cleaner. It clearly needs something. Trample is so much worse than flying.

  5. Posting this on Nich's behalf (tech problems). -Jay

    I already suggested an uncommon cycle of mounts to replace the M12 Mage cycle. You can find them in the top-down design section of the wiki. The idea was to make a more resonant version of Onslaught's Courier cycle. I included creature type requirements to support ally colors and an untap effect to make them flavorful and better to play with.

    A common cycle I'd like to see is one based on Sunblessed Tactician. I made a Black version that makes a player lose 1 life whenever you put a Swamp onto the battlefield. What about the other colors?

    Add to that the two Lair cycles at common and a cycle of vanillas and I don't see much need for anything else at common. - Nich

  6. I'm definitely hoping to get a cycle out of Sunblessed Tactician and Bogcurse Schemer. Three is definitely 'enough' cycles at common.

    Not sure I understand the 'untap' clause on your mounts. They'd be a lot cleaner if their p/t were square. I get what you were going for with the tribal component but that just reads super wierd. Otherwise, very cool.

  7. (Is something up with google's properties today? Post delay -2 hours.)

    If this were an expert set, it'd probably be like:

    Recursive Horror 3B
    3/2 Nomad Horror
    Whenever ~ attacks, target creature you control becomes a copy of ~ until EOT.

    Replacing the Intimidate with non-keywords becomes a cinch. But definitely not uncommon core-set material.

  8. I think the multiple creature requirements on Nich's proposed mounts will be confusing for new players. It wants tribal interactions but doesn't easily lay out what a player should do. I can see this thought process very easily happening: "Ok, so I have a bird... but I need an elf or a human? Do I put it in my elf deck or my human deck? but it's a bird so it doesn't really get help from my other elves... and its white..."

    I think cards in the core set should probably have less hoops to jump through than other sets, maybe this would be good in a set with some tribal elements like Innistrad but if you have tribal in a core set it should be simple, like the lords. I do like the simpler mount effects in this article though.

  9. I like the idea of a Chasm Drake cycle.

    Why not:

    White gives indestructible
    Blue gives flying (Chasm Drake)
    Black gives intimidate
    Red gives first strike
    Green gives trample

  10. Indestructible can't be used at common (or uncommon) it is far stronger than you realize. The rest of the list looks fine. Four out of five of these are perfectly good with the Chasm Drake wording. Probably best to find a 5th that also works. Red could give +3/+0 and White first strike. It's hard to make them all keywords.

  11. I'm not sure that indestructible at common would be such a problem on one card.

    A 1/1 White creature for 4W that's indestructible that gives temporary indestructible to another attack would be a cool trick. There would be plenty of answers to it; White can exile it, White and Blue can tap it, Black can give it -1/-1. The only colours that would have a problem would be Green and Red, but I think it would really be fine. And if it's a 1/1 it's easily blocked and not going to get out of hand.

    That's if you want to only grant keywords.

    Another option is to move first strike to White, give Red trample, and Green hexproof. Or give Blue hexproof and move flying to White. But hexproof isn't particularly interesting as an attack trigger. There's protection, but I'm not a fan.

    But, I think what could be really good, considering the Lair theme, is to give them the appropriate landwalk.

    White gives plainswalk, Blue islandwalk, Black swampwalk, Red mountainwalk, and Green forestwalk.

    People will be playing multiple basic lands so it's more likely for them to trigger and the evasion would help break stalemates which is what you want.

    In fact, a bit more landwalk in the set might be rather fun. You could even put a creature or two at common in White and Green that can "block creatures with landwalk abilities as though they did not have those abilities" and other "Target creature is blocked" type of cards.

  12. We have 2 cycles of Terrain, 1 cycle of pseudo-landfall. If we're also going to do the keyword-granting cycle, one of them should be uncommon. Otherwise, once we put in those cycles and 2 vanillas for colors and 2-3 french vanillas/double scoop creatures, most colors will hardly have any room for anything else.

    I like how keyword granting can create some incidental synergies. I like triggering on attack rather than the battle-rattle mechanic because it means the creature has to risk itself, but I guess it could be either.

    Since it's a mechanic that heavily affects how combat plays out and whether weenie decks can break through board stalls etc, I would rather forget cycle symmetry and pick whatever mechanic makes each color's combat style more interesting.

    I'm glad the M12 mage cycle didn't grant a boring ability like trample for Green, or a powerful ability like flying for Blue just for the sake of cycle unity.

    By the way, the landfall cycle is a good way to make sure that focusing on a few colors is a valid strategy.

  13. As for indestructibility, I think if the creature doesn't have static indestructibility and only gains or grants temporary indestructibility in the style of battle-rattle shaman, it could work at least in terms of power level. (I don't know about the complexity level as a core set common, though.)

  14. I don't think it's so weird that Swamps grant deathtouch without there being any mono-black deathtouch creatures at common. Shards of Alara did something like that with deathtouch. New players won't be looking at the entire set anyways.

    I think other Lair keywords like first strike and lifelink also need to be in limited numbers at common. (Especially lifelink.) If we do every Lair keyword in triples, it would warp the optimal distribution of keywords, whatever that is. Only flying makes sense in those numbers.

    I don't think intimidate is the best choice. When I think about the gameplay, intimidate creatures of different colors will feel similar to each other because they both serve the same evasion role in the deck. When you're building your deck, you don't know what colors your opponent is, so they're the same thing.

    They would also feel and play similarly to the Lair creatures that gain flying. They're all evasion.

    In contrast, the two Lair deathtouch creatures play extremely differently from each other and from the other Lair creatures as well.

    Finally, Red already gets intimidate and Blue already has evasion in the form of flying or unblockability.

  15. Indestructibility is not a common thing. It's not common in complexity, power-level or theme. It's appeared below rare only once outside of Mirrodin and that's because it needs to feel special and making it common reduces it's special-ness. Making it a non-constant thing (like Angelic Overseer and Manor Gargoyle) alleviates the power-level concern, but makes it even more complex (because damage dealt to it while indestructible can destroy it when it becomes, uh, destructible).

    I like Bass' landwalk suggestion.

    Chah's Azure Mage / Jade Mage point is excellent. The fact that we're using keywords for Lair makes me even more inclined to use non-keywords for this power-attacker cycle (which I would also prefer to be uncommon).

    Someone (Greg?) proposed making Swamp Lair give +2/+1 as an inverse to Forest Lair. I'd like to try that out as well as +2/-1 or something.

  16. Onyx Crab
    Terrain—As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME gets +2/+1.

    Goblin Lunatic
    Terrain—As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME gets +2/+1.


    Onyx Crab
    Terrain—As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME gets +2/-1.

    Bog Snapper
    Terrain—As long as you control a Swamp, CARDNAME gets +2/-1.

  17. I brought up the +2/+1 for use in black– and while going with Riot Spikes over Unholy Strength is the obvious next and interesting step, it quickly ran into a wall.

    In an expert-level set, doing this would be small potatoes. But in the core set, I feel quite strongly that we can't have abilities that make the creatures weaker. Even though it's not really making the creature strictly weaker, even though players would play an Aura that granted +2/-1 on their own creatures, even though it certainly is much easier to balance than +2/+1, and even though it is kind of cool, I'm confident that this has to end up getting the veto for the core-set.

    I'm trying to come up with a solid reason *why*, but it's something between "that feels bad" and "you can't turn it off once it's on".

  18. No, I know what you're saying. How about +2/+0? My concern is +2/+1 is just better than +1/+2. Probably, the correct answer is to preserve symmetry, accept that +2/+1 is better than +1/+2 and just make the creatures with swamp lair terrible without a swamp.

  19. Back to the cycle in question. Maybe:
    white: vigilance/untap
    blue: curiosity
    black: disardiosity
    red: can't be blocked by fewer than two creatures
    green: +1/+1 and hexproof


    Alert Gazelle 1W
    1/1 Antelope unc
    Whenever ~ attacks, another target attacking creature gets +0/+2 until EOT. Untap that creature.

    Hoarding Pike 2U
    1/1 Fish unc
    Whenever ~ attacks, another target attacking creature gains "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, draw a card" until EOT.

    Dark Mamba 2B
    1/1 Snake unc
    Whenever ~ attacks, another target attacking creature gains "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, he or she discards a card" until EOT.

    Bleating Saanen 1R
    1/1 Goat unc
    Whenever ~ attacks, another target attacking creature can't be blocked by fewer than two creatures until EOT.

    Howler Monkey 1G
    1/1 Ape unc
    Whenever ~ attacks, another target attacking creature gets +1/+1 and gains hexproof until EOT.

  20. I hate to say "maybe this feels like the antithesis to top-down design that should be featured at uncommon" or "are these things that maybe should be featured in mirrors rather than cycles", as I know we're just teasing out potential ideas.

    But more topically, if we're going with non-Chasm Drakes that don't have the abilities in question themselves already (Alert Gazelle et al), could we consider making "another target attacking creature" just "target creature"? Topping these off with landwalk seems neat, in the meantime.

  21. Hey,
    I've been keeping up with this whole process and was really interested in helping out but I initially doubted whether I'd be able to contribute, having no experience designing cards. I wanted to chime in with a couple observations.

    1. I find the Elephant Rider vastly preferable to the Elephant Mount. It may cost more but I feel like its ability mirrors that of the Chasm Drake much more than the Mount and appears more elegant. What the Rider lacks in elegant wording it makes up for in elegant game play. Just saying that a creature 'gains vigilance' until EOT leads to questions about whether it had it when it attacked, what gaining vigilance really means, and other problematic rules questions. The Rider, on the other hand, has a much more elegant interaction. When it attacks, it's ability triggers. This is more easily applied to the rest of the cycle. (When Chasm Drake attacks, it's ability triggers... etc) Only a few other abilities need to be present before attackers are declared to be effective. (flanking, exalted, vigilance, battle cry, annihilator, haste, provoke, etc.) Of these, haste is the only other one that has potential for being used in M13 (though some of the others would be cool)

    Because the core sets are one of the most effective ways to teach new players how the game works, I think it's worth avoiding haste in this cycle.

    Elephant Rider,
    Chasm Drake,

    Ursine Patrol
    4/4 bear common
    trample, when it attacks, target attacking creature gains trample until EOT (or +1/+1)

    I like the flanking Raptor but I really am not feeling that the black one gives intimidate. Intimidate is a much weaker ability, ESPECIALLY in a set that is pushing you to go more than one color for the terrains and lairs and such.

    I also like the flavor and feel of the cycle Jay Treat just mentioned that has the respective landwalks. Landwalk will be good in this M13 and I think they all work. I do agree with Pasteur that they need to be 'target creature' and not 'another target attacking creature' because if they are your only creature, they are terribad.

    Lastly. and this is completely irrelevant, just a funny aside. Mini-mastering with this M13 is going to be ridiculous. (i mean the one where you simply throw in 3 of each basic land to a booster pack) having EVERY terrain and lair is just going to be silly. : ) haha


  22. Would it be possible to say "If ~ attacks, you may have another attacking creature attack as though it has vigilance". That's still clunky, and needs rewording, but could granting a static ability during the declare attackers step give the double-vigilance ability without having a triggered ability?

  23. I've had a change of heart. There's a new cycle I'd like to see at common. Yes, the Green one is really a real suggestion. For real. Consider it before dismissal.

    Razorfoot Griffin 3W (C) Creature-Griffin 2/2 Flying First strike (Reminder text.)

    Aven Fleetwing 3U (C) Creature-Bird Soldier 2/2 Flying Hexproof (Reminder text.)

    Bloodsucker Harrier 3B (C) Creature-Vampire 2/2 Flying Lifelink (Reminder text.)

    Glider-Clan Scrambler 3R (C) Creature-Goblin Warrior 2/2 Flying Haste (Reminder text.)

    Wasp Drone 3G (C) Creature-Insect 2/2 Flying Deathtouch (Reminder Text.)