Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CCDD 112311—Goblin Grifter

Cool Card Design of the Day
11/23/2011 - There's not much to talk about the inspiration for Goblin Grifter. I was reminded by the last Rosewater article that rewarding a player for having no spells in hand is better than rewarding them for having seven (or even just a bunch) because it promotes playing your spells more instead of less which is kind of what we all sat down to do in the first place.

We will absolutely see hellbent again. It was perfect for the black-red Rakdos guild in Ravnica, but it's a simple mechanic that's fun to play and only the tip of its designberg has been explored. Here's one now:

This is dead simple and that's no mistake. It plays into the Dead-Guy Red strategy of emptying your hand onto the battlefield as fast as possible and trying to kill your opponent before they can stabilize. Goblin Grifter is cheap and small until your hand is empty at which point, it's a hugely undercosted beater.

There's a fairly obvious way to make this card even more attractive to Spike:

Pretty sure this version is rare, not uncommon. Anyhow, you could play one or two of these on your first turn, discard your hand (possibly some madness or flashback cards) and swing on turn one. That's probably too good, but that concern is secondary (because Dev can just tweak thenumbers until it's "fair") to the concern that the added ability—while interesting and exciting (to spike, at least)—isn't necessary to make the card.

I find this to be one of the trickiest lessons to learn as a designer. I know I still struggle with it constantly. This discard ability combos so perfectly with the hellbent ability, how could it possibly be better without? In this case, the answer is that it would be more satisfying for the player to print another card that lets you dump your hand early and let her figure out to pair these together, rather than just hand her the answer on a silver platter. If only the reason not to add more was always so easy to come by.


  1. The second version is classic pooping on your own good idea because you were afraid the core concept wasn't appealing enough. It was, so there's no need to poop it up with extra text.

    Obviously, you realized this, I just want more emphasis on that lesson, because it seems so hard for new designers to learn it.

    Oh also... "print another card that lets you dump your hand" - what are you talking about? This is Red! Red is already packed with cheap cards that deal damage, you don't need to invent anything new. I'm already running 4 shocks, 4 incinerates, 4 grim lavamancers, etc.

  2. *Will* we absolutely see hellbent again? I seem to recall it not being rated too highly among Ravnica mechanics, though I could be remembering wrong.

  3. I think you're remembering correctly, Alex. As I recall, Maro discussed the amusing reality that not only do people like casting their spells, rather than hold on to them, making the Saviors of Kamigawa mechanic poorly rated, but people also like having hands full of spells to cast, and thus don't really like casting their hand ASAP to be incentivized.

    And thus hand-size mechanics are a poor primary concept to work with, and possibly a good reason to simply eliminate the hand-size rule.

  4. Hellbent is definitely not a mechanic for the masses. It could never be a major mechanic like landfall because it doesn't have universal appeal. That said, there IS an audience for it: spikes and red timmies. For that reason, I have to expect we'll see it again in small quantities eventually.

  5. Well, we're apparently seeing more one-shot cards with keyword mechanics in the new cards of these multiplayer products (first storm, now cascade). Hellbent making a new appearance there isn't out of the question, and would be more appropriate for something with niche appeal than risking it in a mainstream expansion.

  6. I _love_ that they're doing that.
    I kinda wish they were legal in more formats, but I appreciate the problem, with that.