Wednesday, October 5, 2011

M13 ETB Lair?

While the other designers have been exploring different Lair-design rules to rewrite, I've been looking into the possibility of expanding upon or replacing the existing static abilities with enters-the-battlefield abilities. The reason we've only used static abilities so far is that a big part of what makes Lair as good/fun as it is (and as new-player-friendly) is that you can turn it on after you've played your Lair card. ETB effects require the land to already be in play to do anything. We know it's reasonable to do because of Parasitic Strix, Rhox Meditant and Sedraxis Alchemist, but that doesn't mean it's optimal for Lair or M13.

Since this project is a learning exercise, it makes more sense to test that hypothesis than to trust it, so I made some cards and shuffled them up to see what's what.

That photo's a touch blurry so even zooming in might not tell you what you're looking at, but you can see the precise text of these cards on the ETB tab of the Exploring Terrain doc. These are pretty good. None of them first picks, but most of them would be solid 4th-6th picks in a draft. I shuffled them into my existing playtest decks and tested both allied and enemy color pairs. Compared to the static Lair abilities, these favored the allied color decks much more because it's so much more likely you'll have an Island on the battlfield on the turn you'd like to cast your spell in your blue-black deck than it is to have a Forest in your white-red deck.

Instead of enters-the-battlefield triggers, we could make these all 'dies' triggers to increase the likelihood that they will be 'on' by the time they would trigger. Unfortunately, the flavor of such abilities is drastically reduced. It makes sense that having a mountain lair could help your Angry Bear to rampage, but why would it matter to the bear when it's dying?

Ultimately, I find these ETB executions perfectly viable options. Unfortunately for them, the static abilities are just better because they're more elegant, interactive and feel-bad-resistant. To illustrate my last claim, imagine having a Mastodon Calf in play when you need a Siege Mastodon. Every draw step is a chance to draw the Forest you need and get back in the game. If, on the other hand, you had to play your Seashore Diplomat this turn to stave off an onslaught, you have no hope of ever getting full value out of it, and drawing a Plains next turn will just make you feel worse.

I also discovered that the existence of simple ETB effects like these that are tied to Lair (like Scourge of the Delta and Mogg Burglar) can be confusing next to simple ETB effects that aren't tied to Lair, like Brain-Eating Zombies.

There's nothing stopping us from including both types, but we're already pushing the number of cards in the set with Lair by including ten common cards and including both executions will reduce focus and force players to read each ability in full to know what it does.

1 comment:

  1. I don't really have a problem with sticking to one execution of Lair. We don't need to do every execution just because it can be done.

    However, I can't agree with the reasons you stated.

    What ratio of games did the late turn-on actually matter?

    I feel that in most games, if you're color screwed and can't cast many of the spells in your hand, you will have a bad experience anyways, so there's no need to stick to only applications that are good during color screw.

    Most of the Lair creatures aren't going to feel good casting it without Lair while under pressure. Imaging being forced to block and trade with a Mountain Lair creature before it gains first strike, in order to stay alive.

    I think late turn-on is a good thing in a normal game when you're not being forced to block. It makes the draw matter and allows the situation on the board to suddenly shift. But with a screwy hand, you often don't have the choice to not block.

    (By the way, if you're waiting on a land and it's still playing out like a normal game, it means that you're waiting for a splash land. Which is another topic, but I think splashing lands for Terrain should be encouraged.)

    ETB isn't confusing; being a virtual vanilla, it actually requires less attention to keep track of.

    2-for-1 effects are satisfying and are fun in their own way. Getting an immediate effect is fun. You can bounce them, recur them, etc.

    Having a static keyword Lair card isn't confusing next to a french vanilla creature, so I don't see why an ETB Lair creature should be confusing next to a normal ETB creature.

    We already are planning to have Lair creatures at all rarities, so the fact the there are 10 common Lair creatures doesn't mean we can't have more at Uncommon. We might not want a double cycle at Uncommon, though.

    I think it's ok that the Uncommons will read differently from Commons; uncommon levelers break a pattern that common levelers set. The same can be said for landfall.

    Finally, I think there could be a different type of ETB Lair, where it costs 4-6 mana, you get a good body you're happy to play without the bonus, but you get a small but significant bonus if you have the land.

    An example would be a 3WW 4/4 flyer where you get a free loot (or maybe loot 2 cards) if you have an Island.