Friday, October 14, 2011

M13 Replacing Mind Control

When Overrun was revealed to be an uncommon in Magic 2012, a lot of people cried foul, complaining that the card is too powerful for limited. After a couple weeks on Magic Online, Lee Sharpe shared stats illustrating how many matches were won by players who had drafted various cards and Overrun was not at the top of the list, not even for uncommons. What was? Mind Control. Overrun will absolutely win you a game if you can set up for it by playing lots of creatures, avoiding trades and not getting fogged. In contrast, Mind Control is at its best in every situation except when you're already winning (because your opponent has no creatures).

In the 2013 skeleton, there is a slot that has been Mind Control from 2010-2012 and the designers have suggested Domestication, Persuasion and two new variations:
Engineered Visions 2UU
You control enchanted creature.
Whenever a spell or ability targets enchanted creature, sacrifice Engineered Visions.

Mental Domination 1UU
You control enchanted creature.
At your upkeep, discard a card or sacrifice Mental Domination.
There's a theme here. We all recognized that Mind Control was just too good. It's not just the power level, though: the card isn't fun to play against. Sorry, too diplomatic: Mind Control is soul-crushing frustration, the likes of which many players are compelled to apologize for when they play it. Compare to Parasitic Implant, which is also a two-for-one. Both spells cause you to lose your best creature (with no targeting restrictions and no problems with regeneration or indestructibility), but one gives the caster a 1/1 and the other gives her your best creature.

It's more than a question of how much a single card has swung the game in your opponent's favor: Players hate to have their own resources turned against themselves. You craft a devious plan involving creatures A and B, spell C and whatnot and your opponent just brings a generic deck that's guaranteed to dismantle any creature strategy. When you play your best creature, it hurts to have it destroyed but you expect that and even respect the 1:1 trade. It's a touch more irksome (for various reasons explored by many theorists) to have it countered, so it never even hits the table. But having your Lord of the Pit or your Akroma, Angel of Wrath stolen from you... it just never feels good.

I'm definitely not suggesting the removal of Control Magic effects from Magic, because they are flavorful and a lot of players enjoy them immensely, but I am suggesting that they should be less common and/or more conditional. For Magic 2013, that could mean shifting Mind Control to rare, re/printing a rare version of it or replacing it at the same rarity with a more conditional version. A comment from Greg Marques on the very subject is the inspiration for this post:
"Tom Lapille and other WotC-ites have hinted that they will strongly reconsider stealing creatures at uncommon. I do like domestication, but I think this is a good opportunity for you to get ahead of them and find a better plan for a blue uncommon that will drive players into the color."
Let's assume for now that our mind control effect will either appear at rare or not at all and instead focus on the exciting challenge that has been presented here. Control Magic is a classic blue effect because it's been around so long and made such an impact during its tenure, not unlike Wrath of God and Terror, so it's natural to have the reaction what could possibly replace Mind Control? Don't try to replace it, instead try to invent a splashy new effect for blue uncommon.

I'm not going to chime in with my ideas at first because I don't want to skew your creativity. The task is difficult, but I promise you that there are blue effects begging to be made that will draw players into the color without stealing creatures. Try a bottom-up approach, using inspiration from other games. Try a top-down approach, drawing from fantasy literature. Or whatever. I'm confident that several of you will find the kernel of an idea that we can work together to sculpt into something new and exciting.


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  2. Aether Distortion
    Exile up to three target (non-land?) permanents. Return them to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step.

    Note: may need development.

  3. Restraining Order
    Return target permanent to its owner's hand. If a spell is cast this turn with the same name as that permanent, counter it.

  4. To please the same audience:

    AEther Tap 3UU
    Target opponent reveals cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a creature card. Put that creature onto the battlefield under your control and the rest of the cards revealed this way on the bottom of their owner's library.

    (could be Telemin Performance)

    To get away from creatures:

    Thoughttheft 3UU
    Target opponent reveals his or her hand. Choose an instant or sorcery card from it, you may cast that card without paying its mana cost.

    (I like Reversal of Fortune better, and red needs this effect more than blue...)

    On a different note:

    Anticipate 1UU
    Look at the top ten cards of target player's library, then put them back in the same order.

    Does this involve writing down too many things? Also, needs some development because I don't know what this much information is worth. It could also cantrip, but I prefer the cleaner version.

    We could also have:

    Soothsaying Sage 3UU
    Creature - Human Wizard
    You may look at the top card players' libraries. (You may do this at any time.)

    Last thought for now:

    Dis-Guys 4U
    Whenever a creature you control blocks a creature you may pay U and return the creature you control to its owner's hand. If you do, put ~ from your hand onto the battlefield blocking that creature.

    Needs some serious cleaning up, maybe something closer to Ninjitsu...

  5. Indoctrination
    Target opponent chooses a creature he or she controls, you gain control of that creature.

    Oppressing Sorcerer 1UU
    Creature - Wizard (1/2)

    You may choose not to untap ~ during your untap step.

    Tap: Gain control of target creature for as long as ~ remains tapped.

    Creature Swap 2UU
    Gain control of target creature you don't control, that creature's controller gains control of target creature you control.
    (I'm sure that this needs to be worded better, and might work better in red)

    Unique Counterspell U
    As an additional cost to cast ~, exile a blue spell from your hand and pay 1 life.
    Counter target spell.
    (just a joke)

    Definitely not an uncommon: but I'd kind of like to see a blue spell version of Mindslaver, maybe in a mythic/rare slot?

  6. I don't think drawback is the way to go here - Mind Control is a good design because it is simple and reads well. If you want to tweak it, add power so that you can bump the cost/rarity. This makes the card less powerful/present without making it feel worse.

    Dominating Winds - 2UUU
    Enchantment - Aura (R)
    Enchant Creature
    You control enchanted creature. It gains flying.

  7. I rather like Obsidian Dice's idea for an upside rare mind control, but remember that we're focusing on its replacement at uncommon for this exercise.

    I'm intrigued by Axxle's suggestion of a blue Mindslaver sorcery (though I'm not sure it's a step up in terms of opponent frustration).

    Aether Distortion seems more white, but it woulnd't be hard to shift that ability to blue.

    I like the thought behind Anticipate, but I think Jules is right it'd bog the game down.

    Reverse-Ninjitsu is an interesting concept. Here's a vaguely related thought:

    PITA 1UU
    Whenever ~ becomes blocked, return each creature blocking it to its owner's hand.
    Whenever ~ attacks and isn't blocked, draw a card.

    Keep spitballing folks, we've got some exciting starts!

  8. Here's what I've got so far:

    Cloudcover Espionage
    1UU - Enchantment (U)
    Your opponents play with their hands revealed.

    When ~ ETB, look at the top two cards of your library. Put one of them into your hand and the other on the bottom of your library.

  9. I think blue really needs a bomby copy effect at uncommon to replace Mind Control. Here are a couple variations on one that has a similar result as mind control and another that is totally different:

    Soul Channel 2UU

    Sorcery U

    Put a token onto the battlefield that is a copy of any creature on the battlefield that has "other creatures with the same name have -1/-0".

    Soul Mirror 2UU

    Sorcery U

    Put a token onto the battlefield that is a copy of any creature on the battlefield that has "~ cannot be blocked by other creatures with the same name".

    Spell Theft 2UU

    Instant U

    Counter target instant or sorcery spell. If that spell is countered this way exile it instead of putting it in it's owner's graveyard. You may cast it any time that spell could normally be cast for XU where U is that spell's converted mana cost.

  10. Copy effects are so simple already!
    No, but seriously, copy effects are always rare. Clone is pretty much the simplest way you can do it, and it's still rare territory. That said, some sort of neat, clean-but-funky Shapeshifter might be a/the way to go on this.

    Jay's PITA (I'll admit I don't get the name) actually seems pretty neat, though I'm sure there's some templating issues (when isn't there?). (When do you draw the card, after blockers are declared? Seems intuitive enough at uncommon to know "it's still blocked" even after the blockers are bounced.)

  11. This is probably the easiest way to balance the card:

    Illusionary Theft
    Enchantment - Aura
    Enchant creature
    You control enchanted creature and it gains "Whenever this creature or Illusionary Theft is the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it."

    By attaching the disappearing illusion clause it is still playable but not as game dominating as it once was.

  12. Based on games like Munchkin or Ascension where you make a monster to kill it and reap the rewards:

    Scroll Stack 1U
    When ~ enter the battlefield, target player gains control of it.
    Whenever a creature deals combat damage to ~, it's controller draws a card.
    ~ blocks each turn if able.

    but that's not much of a recurring mechanic, what about:

    Bound in Knowledge 2U
    Whenever enchanted creature attacks or blocks, you draw a card.

    It can be a great Curiosity or a pseudo Pacifism as appropriate.

    Speaking of Ascension, Magic could harness the in-game deck building aspect via Research.

    Time-Turner Study Session 1UU
    Choose any number of cards you own from outside the game and shuffle them into your library.

    Okay, maybe not the best idea for uncommon...

    That's all I've got for now, more ideas to come.

  13. Blue uncommon staple. This is a pretty challenging assignment this early in the design process when we don’t know the shape of the rest of the set. So these will all be based on assumptions. First an unusual take on card draw/filtering.

    Solstice Machinations 3UU (Uncommon) Sorcery Until end of turn, creatures you control have “T: Look at the top two cards of your library. Put one of them into your hand, and the other on the bottom of your library.”

    Next up is Overrun with a Blue spin.

    Winged Transformation 3UUU (Uncommon) Instant As an additional cost to cast Winged Transformation, sacrifice any number of creatures. Put a 3/3 blue Drake creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield for each creature sacrificed this way.

    This one is my favorite of the bunch since it has such a simple concept: trade up your defensive /tiny Blue creatures for some beatsticks. I don’t think this slot should be a creature, but just in case here’s a game altering beatstick that’s in keeping with how Mind Control affected games.

    Permafrost Serpent 4UU (Uncommon) Creature-Serpent 5/4 When Permafrost Serpent enters the battlefield, tap all other creatures. Those creatures don’t untap during their controllers’ untap steps.

    And finally…

    Confusing Mists 2U (Untap) Enchantment Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under an opponent’s control, you gain control of it until end of turn.

    That’s probably better as a Rare that steals nonland permanents…

  14. @Nich A drakeform Hellion Eruption/Day of the Dragons feels solid. They were rare, but it's certainly *plausible* to see at uncommon. Maybe give Permafrost Serpent some attacking clause, and it'd be perfect? Grafting directly,

    Waveknocker Serpent
    4UU (U) 5/4
    Waveknocker Serpent enters the battlefield, tap all other creatures. Those creatures don’t untap during their controllers’ untap steps.
    Waveknocker Serpent can't attack unless there are five or more Islands on the battlefield.

    Then again, maybe it'd just be good as is, 3UUU.

  15. I'm with HavelockV, Sleep is a great replacement.

    In keeping with the idea of something NEW to draw people into blue, how about this?

    Reservoir of Tides
    Sacrifice CARDNAME: Add UUUUU to your mana pool.

    I know Blue doesn't usually get to play with mana, but the idea of building up tides and what not kinda feels blue and it's a different type of mana accelerant; it's not early game and it's a one-off of a lot of mana. It could be Red, but it feels Blue as it's more forward-thinking. It could give Blue a new ability that might draw people in. "Hey, I draft this and I can play my enormous sea serpent or crazy spell like Sway of the Stars". I dunno.

  16. Or if you want something that's better in a controlling deck, Dismiss would send me into blue...

  17. Fortune Teller 1U
    When Fortune Teller enters the battle field draw 2 cards, then put 1 card from your and on top of your library.

  18. Actually there have been 8 copy effects at uncommon in blue and about 3 times that many at rare. In fact the iconic blue copy card, clone, has been both.

    I stand by the three submissions above that I made as appropriate and well costed for uncommon. Any one of them could arguably do with costing one more (putting it at the same cost as Mind Control) but if you look at them closely, they are all actually less powerful than Mind Control.

    Note that spell theft doesn't counter (or copy) creatures.

  19. Mind control exists to fill a pretty specific role in limited (and rarely) constructed magic. It's blue's Nekrataal. Consider the following card:

    Exile target creature an opponent controls. ~ enters the battlefield as a copy of that creature. When ~ leaves the battlefield, return that creature to its owners control.

    That's what Mind Control accomplishes in 4 WORDS. The elegance of the card is probably enough to keep it in the set at Rare. But for the sake of argument...

    In order to please the same audience, we really need to work on what blue removal looks like. Blue has this funny reputation as being the worst color for removal despite having this 2 for 1 in virtually every core set. In fact, most colors have good "removal" 2-1 bomb uncommons, if you use that idea loosely. Overrun, Fireball, Nekrataal, Fiend Hunter. So, what else looks like blue 2 for 1 removal?

    You could do this:

    Ice Golem 3UU
    Creature Golem
    When Ice Golem enters the battlefield, tap target creature. That creature remains tapped for as long as Ice Golem remains on the battlefield.

    Honestly, that card is still less insane than mind control.

    Just Dessertion 3UU
    Counter target creature spell. Put that card onto the battlefield under your control instead of into its owner's graveyard.

    Puts a bit more of the impetus on the blue player to hold open a lot of mana, and it doesn't give them access to an answer once the creature has resolved. Summoner's Bane, Overwhelming Intellect or Exclude might fit a similar role.

    If you need to "justify" putting it at a higher cost:

    Motivation Reigns 4UU
    Enchantment — Aura
    Enchant creature
    When Motivation Reins enters the battlefield, if enchanted creature is tapped, untap it.
    You control enchanted creature.

  20. My favorite designs that I think don't fill this particular role or fill another role better are Restraining Order, Dis-Guys, PITA, Illusionary Theft, Dominating Winds, Motivation Reigns and one based directly off of Trevor's:

    Greater Clone 2UU
    Creature-Shapeshifter rare
    You may have ~ enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield. If you do, it gains protection from creatures with that name.

    My favorite designs for this slot are Bound in Knowledge, Solstice Machinations (with a tweak), Sleep, Dismiss, Reservoir of Tides (with the mana limited in use) and Ice Golem. Of those Ice Golem is my top pick, but I'd like to hear your opinions.

  21. I agree that the best option is not to make a "fixed" Mind Control. What about Archivist? Or a card that just gets you a lot of incremental card advantage, like the blue Mage in M12? I like Ice Golem, although I worry a bit about memory issues there. Also, Sleep and Dismiss sound good to me.

  22. I think Dismiss would make a lot of players happy, but it's not the kind of counterspell R&D is interested in printing these days, because of how much it strongly encourages the draw-go style counter decks.

  23. I realized the phrasing of the previous comment reflects how much my thinking is still stuck in GDS2 mode, haha. I agree with them, that draw-go style counter decks aren't very good for the game as a whole, but if you wanted to take a different stance with your set reprinting Dismiss would definitely be a way to do that.

  24. Dismiss is fine for a core set, and it's not out of line with other recent counters like soul manipulation, spell contortion or fuel for the cause.

    That said, I think the slot should still go for some removal for things already resolved. I like Bound in Knowledge, although it could also make a good ice cage replacement. Keep in mind that it's usually just going to make you keep a 1-1 card parity, considering if it attacks or blocks it's probably killing a creature or forcing your to chump.

    I still lean towards ice golem (how can I not?), but I'd like to see other submissions in the theme of blue removal.

  25. Jay, I love what you did with Greater Clone, except for the name. I would call it Better Half during design but I don't know if such a cute name would make it.

    Also I think we need to think just slightly wider than 1 card. Let's talk about Clone and Mind Control both as having slots like they did in M11 even though Clone wasn't there in M12. The reason is these are both core blue things and Better Half never wants to be in a set with either of those so if we were ever going to do Better Half it should be when neither Mind Control or Clone are in the set.

    In that case, then which of the above choices do we want the most? Not a creature, although I like Ice Golem.

    Personally, I'm kind of partial to Sleep, especially if Gideon will be rotating out of the white planeswalker spot. So to be clear, I'm suggesting Better Half as the awesomer clone rare and Sleep as the uncommon.

  26. Oh crap, I totally forgot I wanted to use the list from What a Color Wants to brainstorm some ideas. (It's been hectic). Check it out on that page.

  27. I like Better Half better. Good call.

    Why not a creature? I know we're replacing a spell slot, but if we've got a card we really like, it's easy enough to un-creature another of the uncommon slots.

    I quite like Sleep, but we have to remove Frost Breath if we use Sleep. One could argue we should do that anyhow since we're not reprinting Frost Titan, but I was pretty fond of keeping Frost Breath.

  28. Another one for fun:

    Gilded Beebles 3UU (U) Creature-Beeble 3/3
    Gilded Beebles is unblockable.
    6: Exchange control of Gilded Beebles and target permanent another player controls.
    You don’t buy Beebles. You rent them.

  29. Yeah Jay thanks for the link to the other post - I do think it's time to thing about Mind Control in the context of some of the other cards.

    The only reason I said not a creature is that Better Half is already blue's amazing thing to do that is kind of creature related. If it is at rare though, then actually the uncommon could be either a creature or a spell.

    I agree that Frost Breath is worth keeping.

    In looking through the other post on what blue wants, etc. I actually wonder about bringing in Guard Gomazoa in the uncommon slot. Pair that with Frost Breath and Better Half and blue has some really great options for coming back that aren't quite the single card blow out that Mind Control is.