Monday, November 28, 2011

M13 Designing Lair (1)

I summarized the initial rules for the implementation of lair in Magic 2013 in this article, but I didn't get into great detail and more importantly, we didn't come up with final answers. Note that a 'final answer' can still be changed until the deadline if we discover a good enough reason to warrant making the change, considering the large ripple effect that will have on other cards. We at least need to agree to what we're doing for now or else different designers will submit (have submitted) different implementations and we're wasting energy designing in different directions.

I would split these into separate threads so that none of them get lost in the shuffle, but they're hopelessly interconnected and it's almost impossible to discuss one without the next. I'll follow up throughout the week with what decisions we've made and what still needs to be sorted out.

What kinds of effects does lair have? The collective intuition was that lair is at it's best as a static ability. "As long as you control a Plains, cardname has/gets..." The reason is the ability becomes relevant as soon as you meet the condition of controlling that type of land which can happen either before or after you cast the lair card. Kird Ape is very rarely a 2/3 on turn one, but no one minds because following your t1 Mountain with a t2 Forest still powers him up. Effects on sorceries and instants as well as enters-the-battlefield effects only get one chance for lair to be relevant, making the lair on them more like a mana-less kicker cost. My playtesting confirmed those versions to be less attractive to players because they force you to make harder decisions and reward emotional sacrifices. Lair effects are static only.

That still leaves a pretty wide array of options. For the commons we have agreed that each ability should be either a power/toughness boost or an evergreen keyword. What about the non-commons? One argument is that in the same way all the commons will use the same effect for each land type, all the non-commons will use those exact same effects. This consistency means that we're only introducing five variations and thus limiting what we're asking the audience to learn. Another argument is that lair effects should all be different outside of common for variety and to allow for more impressive rare lairs. It's a tough call and I'd like your opinion. [1]

What kind of cards does lair go on? Our initial brainstorming showed that lair could appear in some form on any spell (with the possible exception of planeswalker), mechanically speaking. The previous design choice eliminates sorceries and instants from contention, but there is another consideration that does as well. Currently, lair is concepted as a bonus for allowing something to exist in its natural habitat or a habitat it's particularly well suited to. It's easy (and fun) to imagine a Kird Ape swinging happily through the trees or a zombie walking calmly through a firepit only to come out on the other side twice as dangerous. It's a little stranger to imagine a Rod of Power caring about its surroundings. That's why we initially decided that lair would appear only creatures.

Nich has explored lair on auras here on the wiki. I think that if we were to put lair on aura cards, this is very close to the way we'd do it. As I explained yesterday, my plan to hinge this decision based on playtesting was flawed, so we need to make this choice based on high-level design principles. I've stated the popular opinion as I know it, but I'm sure there are other aspects to it and we of course need to hear as many opinions as possible. [2]

Which colors get lair and in what proportion? The initial decision was to put lair in all colors in equal proportion. The reason for that is also one of the reasons we chose lair in the first place: to demonstrate concretely the idea of allied color pairs. By putting Plains Lair and Mountain Lair on two green commons, we're putting it up front and center that green is friendly with white and red. At least more friendly than with blue and black. If we do that equally across each color pair, we're suggesting that each alliance is as strong as each other alliance.

On the other hand, it's extremely unusual for all colors to get a keyword in equal proportion. Cycling and Landcycling appeared nearly equally in Shards block, but not quite. Kicker and multikicker did likewise in Zendikar block as did Phyrexian Mana in New Phyrexia. All of these are fun mechanics with low resonance, and that's a big part of what allows them to fit in so many different places. More flavorful mechanics like Bloodthirst in 2012, Scry in 2011 and Morbid in Innistrad demanded color exclusion.

Where does lair fall in that spectrum? I believe it could be just as universal as the first batch or half-way between there and the second batch. The fact that we've tied the flavor to creatures helps because it's aligned more to a card type than to a color philosophy, which would allow us to keep it universal if we prefer. On the other hand, if we were to align with specific colors, that could make it more flavorful. In Nich's experiment, he removed lair from green and blue because doing so eliminates Plains Lair entirely, which is admittedly not the verbal slam dunk Mountain Lair and the others are. We could also argue that blue and green are the colors that don't care about other land types because green is doing it's own thing and blue thinks it's better than the other colors.

Another possibility using that thematic logic is to remove lair from black because black is the most self-sufficient color (at least in attitude) and wouldn't want to rely on others. Those executions play off the ally-ness of lair, but we could instead play down that aspect in favor of the where-creatures-live aspect. In that scenario, I would keep lair in all colors, but have very few plains lair and island lair creatures but a good deal of forest lair and swamp lair creatures. Do you think lair should appear equally in all colors, skewed, or only in a few? Which ones and—most importantly—why? [3]

How much lair do we use and at what rarity? We've planned on having ten lair cards at common so that we could have one card in each color for each of the allied land types. We've barely discussed how much lair should appear at uncommon and beyond. We have brainstormed more than a few exciting uncommon and rare lair creatures, but if we've got 10 commons and we make just 5 uncommons and 5 rares, for example, that's twenty lair cards in the set. That is a lot for a core set. Is it too much? I honestly don't know. Maybe playtesting will give us a feeling if the theme is being overdone?

If it is a problem, we've got a few options. A fairly obvious one is to limit which colors lair goes in. Another is to remove the reciprocal cycle so that there are only 5 commons with lair. We could then make 5 uncommons which then account for the other direction. As for rares, unless we find something that really wants to be a cycle (like the Titans) I don't think we should be tied to those concerns and just do 2 or 3 or however many really sick rare lairs present themselves. [4]

The last really big question is what abilities to associate with each land type at common (or at all rarities, if we go that route). The initial pentad is plains = lifelink, island = flying, swamp = death touch, mountain = first strike and forest = +1/+2. This has worked for us so far and I'm leaning toward remaining with this configuration, but not nearly so much that we shouldn't discuss it. There's some good banter on this subject in the comments here and scattered across the project.

One concern is that making death touch the swamp lair ability means that we can't put death touch in common green and/or we have much more common death touch than normal. It's been suggested that swamp lair grant intimidate, lifelink (in which case plains would grant either vigilance or first strike [in which case red would grant intimidate]) or +2/+1 (to mirror green). The trouble with intimidate is that it'll be confusing for a swamp to give a blue creature intimidate only to have it be blocked by a black creature. It also feels too similar to island lair's flying since they're both straight-up evasion abilities. We looked at using only P/T modifiers but it doesn't quite work for all five colors. [5]

Note that if were to drop a common cycle and make lair abilities above common all different that there would be no sameness among lair cards at all and the above discussion becomes moot. I'm not suggesting we do that, just pointing out that a lot of these decisions have serious impacts on the others.

Less critical, but worth noting are a few more guidelines:
A card with Lair turned on should be slightly worse than the multicolored equivalent would be since it's easier to cast than that theoretical multicolored doppleganger.

The ability granted is either something the card it's on couldn't normally get
(but something a card associated with the lair ability's land type could), or else the card is bigger or cheaper than it would be otherwise (when both colors have access to that ability).

A card with Lair inherently promotes multicolored play and should not also promote monocolored play
(via Corrupt-like land-counting or Leonin Skyhunter-like mana requirements). This is a matter of not sending mixed signals. We want the set to support different strategies with different cards, and it's neat when one card can support multiple strategies, but very few players enjoy a card that is clearly meant for two different strategies that are completely at odds with another (like explicitly rewarding a mono-colored deck and a multi-colored deck). Even if they do work and a high level player can figure out how to use them optimally, we don't want 90% of our audience hissing in disgust.

Simpler is better. Some cards, like Black Knight and Serra Angel, are defined by their combination of abilities. That will happen with lair to some extent, and rightly so, but we shouldn't seek it out and in fact should endeavor to avoid "stapled-together" cards with more than one ability "just because it's neat" whenever possible. Particularly at common. There are very few creatures with two keywords (and even fewer with two non-keywords) at common in the last three core sets—and for good reason. See Pasteur's thoughts here.

I numbered each issue I'm asking feedback for so that you can reference them quickly and unambigiously. When making your arguments, please remember the set's goals as you do. They are resonance, accessibility, play value, innovation, nostalgia, and being different from the last three core sets while remaining true to their introductory purpose.

EDIT: In an attempt to address Ben's concern about the flavor or lair, I've created a card functionally identical to Vaportrail Imp that should make more thematic sense. I wanted people to see it in graphical form so that we could better gauge whether it helps a little, a lot or not at all.

I also wanted to label this topic [0] since it wasn't part of the original topic but does warrant discussion.


  1. I haven't been following this project very closely, but the lair cards I've been seeing here have me confused about what lair means. Not from a rules or gameplay perspective, but for flavor.

    Taking the card images in this post as examples: I don't get the flavor behind an imp that can fly if there's an island around, a unicorn that gains life when it roams to plains, or a black knight who gets powered up by mountains. A guy who gets deathtouch if you control a swamp could make sense if it's presented as using the swamp as a source of poison. The name and creature type suggest that that's not what the designer had in mind, though. And I'm still not sure, in flavor terms, why a monster gathering poison from swamps wouldn't just be a black card.

    Village Skycaptain, from the previous post, was the card that really made me want to post about this. It's a white soldier who gets stronger near a forest, and can fly near an island? I feel like I must be missing something major about what this all means.

    Have you worked out internal guidelines for what lair represents conceptually? The word "lair" (granted, I realize that isn't a final choice or anything) mainly suggests that it means the creature lives in that type of land. But there's already an established way to represent that a creature lives in a forest: making it a green card with some trees in the artwork.

    Of course, most of this could apply to Kird Ape as well, and that hasn't stopped it from being a popular card. I'm just skeptical that lair has the top-down potential of scry or bloodthirst.

  2. For #3: My preference would be to restrict it to the Naya shard. I feel like red is always the hungriest for creature mechanics, so it makes sense to give it the feature creature mechanic. White and green usually have the highest efficiency creatures, so again, it makes sense for them to get a premier creature-based ability (and supports ally-color play).

    Also, remember that you can put a lair ability only on a few colors of cards, but still reference all 5 colors (for example, by making one or two red cards with Swamp Lair, or a white card with Island lair). You can add further support for allied play by adding relevant activated abilities like on Sedge Troll.

    #4: I'd also like to limit lair cards to no more than 12 total for the set, which is a lot easier if you go off my restriction for #3. You could do a breakdown of 2 common and 1 uncommon lair cards for red, green, and white, and then fit in your two best rare/mythics for 11 total lair cards.

  3. Thanks, Ben. That's just the kind of reality check the team needed, I think.

    I see lair as an easier form of multicolor. Rather than make Vaportrail Imp cost 1UB, we take the blue of the cost and make the flying contingent on your ability to produce U later. Others might see it another way. Unfortunately, that's a very mechanical thing and since flavor is so important in Magic again, we've been trying to justify it by couching it in thematic terms. It looks like we've failed so far.

    Maybe we can make the flavor fit by reworking the card concepts (name/art/flavor text). Or maybe we need to take a different tact: give up on the lair concept and embrace the allied colors make each other stronger concept.

    Good stuff to chew on.

  4. I'm terrified that Jay is going to take what Ben said to heart since it plays to his biggest insecurities about Lair. It's not a reality check, it's a handful of playtest cards.

  5. While normally I'd back Nich up on this one, the returning mechanic for a core set is not the place to rely on creative to sort things out. Scry and Bloodthirst returned because they were so flavorful, and our mechanic has to live up to that. I'm not sure Lair's a lost cause, I think we just need to spend some time really pinning down a workable piece of flavor for the mechanic and making sure that all of our cards stay true to that. It's current implementation on the commons seems to be one of adaptation, not being on home turf. I know we decided on Lair because it was nicer aesthetically, but after reading Ben's comment I think we should try to find a good name in the vein of "Adapted for Islands" and keep all of our designs feeling like physical adaptations. We can have a mix of evolutionary changes and sentient beings coming prepared assuming we have a term that encompasses both, but having a Forest give protection from black would no longer cut the mustard. I'll be back with some thoughts on Jay's points when I have some more time.

  6. To me, the current iteration of Lair on our creatures feels like this:
    Vaportrail Imp is summoned using black mana. A black imp is what the creature *is*, and with access to blue mana, Flying is what the creature *does*.

    It takes green mana to summon the Unicorn; the Unicorn is green; if the Planeswalker who summoned it is also connected to a Plains, something in the nature of that most basic of fonts of white mana enhances or unlocks a part of that Unicorn's purity that, while being an internal part of the Unicorn itself, is not the basis for the Unicorn's identity.

    Am I making sense?
    (As with Jules, I'm building up my responses to the actual post.)

  7. For #1, Uncommon and Rare Lair cards should be allowed to have different bonuses.

    Complexity is something you fight with numbers and probability, not something you have to abolish completely. What I mean is, as long as the majority of cards that a new player sees (common cards) act a certain way, that already makes it easy to keep track of what the cards do, to a degree.

    Magic is also about discovery and unique cards and I think it would be actively bad if every card that uses Lair at higher rarity used it in the same way, like landfall or levelers. (And even those had exceptions at common.)

    Unifying the commons and while allowing the uncommons and rares to be different is the best tradeoff.

    Also, if Lair always gave the same bonus, that would be kind of weird. It would be like it's a keyword with 5 different definitions. I think it feel more natural if the bonuses were more like a soft guideline rather than a hard rule/definition.

  8. I didn't mean you can't explain how Lair works at present. It isn't immediately grokkable, and I don't think art and names can easily fix that. Imp with the potential to fly should it ever encounter an environment totally alien to it isn't exactly concise...

  9. For #2, I don't think Auras are the best place to use Lair.

    If we want the mechanic to make the set play differently, Auras just aren't as integral to Magic as creatures and instants/sorceries are. They don't always get played, and not every color will have a playable Aura.

    If we do make the Auras strong enough in every color, it might start feeling like the "Auras matter" set. (That said, I have nothing against making Auras more playable, like M13's Divine Favor, Dark Favor, Troll Hide, and Goblin War Paint.)

    Also, most Aura cards already have many "modes" in the sense that it acts differently based on what creature it's played on. I'm not sure Auras need to have more modes based on whether you have a certain land or not.

    While I don't think it would make a good common cycle, it might be ok at Uncommon if there's some cool and evocative uses on an Aura that uses Lair.

    If we do make the colors skewed (which I'm not sure I like) maybe there could be common Auras with Lair in colors where we want an Aura subtheme.

  10. I'm with Ben. Lair doesn't make much sense, flavor-wise.

  11. For #3, I don't think the colors should be skewed, but it depends on what role we want Lair to serve in this set.

    If we want it to be "multicolor Lite" or "stress-free multicolor," then it would be really weird not to have it equally in all colors. That would be like making a Shards of Alara where some colors got more multicolor cards than other colors.

    If we want to make it a theme that players can build around, where some decks try to take every Lair card and Rampant Growth effect (while other players go for other themes) then skewering the colors might make sense.

    In the second case, we could skewer Lair in colors that have land fixing/mirage effects (Green, maybe Blue) so that those colors can have the Lair & landfixing theme.

    Or, we could put Lair in the colors that lack landtype fixing, so that players can combine colors themselves to create archetypes. They can choose to pair a color that has many Lair creatures with a color that have landtype fixing. Or they can choose to just play Lair creatures of their own colors.

    This is similar to Innistrad's morbid theme, where they intentionally put it in the color that is most equipped to enable it with removal (Black) and the color that can't kill creatures at will (Green).

  12. Ben has a good point. I agree with Jules, perhaps it should be "Swamp Adaptation." (Was it one of the original candidates?)

    It's abstract enough that a Merchant getting a nifty ability from having access to sea routes can have Island Adaptation.

    Jay's example of a Zombie walking through fire and becoming a blazing zombie was evocative. I hope we can work in designs like that.

  13. A lot of my opinion here are based on the “fifth stage of design” Maro described (and expanded upon today) in his State of Design 2011 article. In the fifth stage, mechanical themes are tools used to support a Block’s focus. This is a Core Set, not a Block but the fifth stage still applies. Luckily we’ve decided upon a pretty terrific focus: Teach new players about allied colors and their dynamics in a resonant way without using multicolor. Lair is a great way to teach players how colors can work together.

    1.) I am on board with the common Lair cards only providing keywords or p/t boosts. And I’d like to see Uncommon, Rare and Mythic Rare Lair cards with different effects than the common versions. I don’t think Lair is as robust as Cycling (which initially had an activation cost of 2) where it can support such a strict restriction. Not unless there are a very, very small number of Lair cards in the set (less than 15.)

    2.) I don’t think Lair is as fun when it’s creature only. It’s a lot simpler to have binary creatures that are either A or B. But what we gain from simplicity will also contribute towards weariness or boredom. The mechanic will have very little shelf life in Limited and Constructed if it’s so one-note. The added flexibility will extend the shelf life a significant amount. Also, Aura’s don’t preclude the idea that the commons share a Lair effect. So they are still pretty simple.

    PS – I can also see a small number of instant or sorcery Lair spells. And the flavor doesn’t seem hard for me to grasp. Just as Bob the Planeswalker’s Apes are bigger when he taps into his forests, Bob’s damage spells are better when he has accessed his swamps.

    3.) My hope is to closely follow the model WotC used for metalcraft in Scars of Mirrodin. There are 22 metalcraft cards in the set, including a common in every color. But the cards were focused in Red, White and Blue (and colorless). The trick to the fifth stage of design is to use mechanics as tools. So here, Lair is just one tool used to promote ally color play. One of several. The colors that don’t have (more than one or two) Lair cards would support the set theme in other ways. Ways that promote different and interesting decks in constructed and limited. I’d like to see Black, Red, and Green be the colors with the most Lair cards.

    4.) I don’t think Scry and Bloodthirst numbers are what we should shoot for. Based on what I said in 3. It should be clear. I’d like to see 20-22 Lair cards, half of which are common, with 3-4 uncommon and 6-7 rare/mythic rare. Like metalcraft, I would suggest that we worry more about the resonance and splashy effects we can find than putting ourselves in a box of which colors get Lair. Look at what Metalcraft was doing. Every color in Scars Block played with artifacts. How they did it was different. And metalcraft supported the overall theme without being a theme. Metalcraft was mostly on colored spells, because it was a support mechanic, not a focus mechanic. Lair should be the same thing. It should help support the “ally color pair” focus without pulling focus to itself.

    5.) I’d prefer First strike for Plains Lair because it is an excited boon for both blue and green. They never get an edge like that normally. I certainly support +1/+2 for Forest Lair. Kird Ape is the legitimizer for Lair as a “returning mechanic.” I support Intimidate for Mountain Lair because it gives green and black something they each already have (somewhat) but hopefully at a discount. I support Deathtouch for Swamp Lair because Bloodblind Cyclops and Merfolk Deathbroker (the red and blue cards we’ve made for it) are really exciting to me. I am on the fence about Island Lair though. I really like the payoff for Crested Dodo, but not Vaportrail Imp. Still, I don’t want to choose Shroud. That could be terrifying. Notice that we don’t have to choose just “something the card it's on couldn't normally get” or “a bigger or cheaper effect it could already get” for Lair – different colors can use it to different ends.

  14. For #4, I'm not sure how many cards is too much for a keyword mechanic. In Zendikar, each color had 2-3 commons with landfall.

    It does sound weird to have a mechanic go on 10 commons in a core set, because there's no precedence. But I wonder if there is any specific problem that would arise because of it?

    Unlike some expansion set mechanics, Lair doesn't doesn't force you to play a "variant Magic" so to speak. So maybe it's ok.

    The only problem I encountered so far is that the common Lair designs ended up mostly in the same space as vanillas and french vanillas. There isn't room for many commons with neat abilities.

    I'd really like to have it go both directions for each color.

  15. The more I think about it, the more I think Lair is just a weird, awkward version of off-color activations. Which of these reads better?

    "As long as you control an Island, Vaportrail Imp has flying."

    "U: Vaportrail Imp gains flying until end of turn."

    The advantages of the second way are numerous. First, it requires less player memory than a static ability. Second, it introduces resource management. Third, it makes more flavor sense: the blue mana is what's making the Imp fly, not just the presence of an Island.

  16. [0] I added a card image and a topic index to the end of the article.

    I like Pasteur's description of Lair better than mine. I think the important distinction between what we're aiming for and what is visible from our work so far is that controlling the land in question grants the creature an ability it could only have (at that cost) if it had been multicolor and required that color of mana to cast, as opposed to the more thematic interpretation Ben made, "the presence of islands allows this imp to fly," which he's right doesn't make [much] sense.

    We can't discard Ben's opinion because other players (possible a minority, possibly not) will naturally look at lair cards the same way. That isn't to say we need to abandon lair or overhaul it drastically, but if we can tweak it so the Vorthos view isn't so jarring, everyone wins. One solution is to replace Vaportrail Imp with a functionally identical Seastorm Moccassin where the picture shows a watersnake gliding above a dark and stormy sea by flattening itself out like the real-life flying snake found in rainforests.

    The other solution is to change the name of the ability to describe what we're doing mechanically rather than the kinds of cards we're using it on. Island-Ally, Island-Powered, Island-Boost are clumsy attempts but demonstrate what I mean. Note that this path removes one of the barriers to putting 'lair' on non-creature spells.

  17. [2]

    To Nich's second point, remember that Lair isn't responsible for fulfilling all of the set's goal by itself. It can't possibly do that by itself. We want Magic 2013 to have varied play in limited and we don't want the set to be one-note, but it's okay if one of the mechanics in the set doesn't do all things for all players. We can still have cool auras that keep things interesting (by virture of the fact they can be applied to any creature, and so many combinations are possible). In fact, we can still have auras that care about land types, but perhaps in a different way. Armored Ascension is one example, "Enchanted creature gains Forestwalk" is another, and Strength of Unity is another.

    If we do put lair on auras, I agree with Chah that it should probably happen at uncommon since the auras all do two things. We would also probably need to embrace the ally theme of the mechanic rather than the 'lair' theme just because I can't grok how you could give a creature a "new home."

    I agree that we CAN put 'lair' on non-permanents, if we design around the feel-bad, but the ability to do something is not a reason to do it. By limiting a mechanic to certain cardtypes, you give it definition.

  18. [3]

    Nich's argument that lair could support the "almost multicolor" theme in some colors while we could support it in other ways in the other colors is the most compelling argument I've heard for assymetrical lair.

    As an exercise, suppose that we put lair in Naya or Jund colors. How would we support multicolor decks in blue (and black/white)? Domain? The Ogre Savant ability? Bloom Tender style counting?

  19. [4]

    Well said, Chah, regarding complexity and using different lair abilities outside of the common rarity. I do think it would help to at least keep one theme in common (the other use of the word) among either all lair cards or all lair cards of one land type: We would do well to define lair as more than just "abilities you get for controlling land."

    The problem with using the same numbers that mechanics appear in expert sets rather than core sets is that there is a very good reason for that difference. The core set is meant to serve as the baseline for Magic. Every core set should be represtantive of Magic as a whole. That is, a new player experiencing one core set should not be shocked when he sees another because something he thought was fundamental to the game was only fundamental to that first set.

    Mechanics get pushed in expert sets for the very purpose of distinguishing that set from the rest of Magic because it is vital to expansions that they feel unique and offer a noticeably different play experience.

    Those two reasons are what make me so nervous about including even 15 lair cards in our core set. We want lair to keep 2013 fresh for established players, but we don't want it to define Magic for the new ones.

  20. Having thought about this some more, I'm afraid I now believe that Lair is not a core set common mechanic. The way it grants static abilities linked to cards that one usually ignores is highly undesirable.

    Here is a gatherer search for the phrase "as long as" on standard-legal commons. (That's generally how cards with Lair-ish abilities will be templated.)[%22as%20long%20as%22]&format=[%22Standard%22]&rarity=+[C]

    As you can see, it doesn't come up much, aside from metalcraft. And when it does, it's always checking for things which are easy to notice. Is Griffin Rider pumped? I'll check if there's a griffin for him to ride. Are Viridian Betrayers infectious? Everyone knows whether or not they've been poisoned.

    It also barely shows up at all in core sets, because of complexity and memory issues. In fact, in the entire history of Magic, there are only two core set commons ever printed with conditional static abilities other than landwalk: Griffin Rider and Harbor Serpent.

    Lair, however, grants static abilities which are linked to cards that one normally ignores: how often does the average player look at which lands their opponent has? That's just not kosher on core set commons. Determining the board state should require eyes but no thought; that was one lesson of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor.

    And when was the last time they printed Lair? With the Loam Lion / Sejiri Merfolk / Shoreline Salvager / Slavering Nulls / Summit Apes cycle. Which was in an expert-level set with a "lands matter" theme. And even there, it was uncommon!

    Given Ethan's article on Monday, it is clear that future design is even more wary of complexity at common than past sets. Whether we want to emulate R&D in this is our choice, but it is very clear to me that Lair is not a core set common mechanic by normal design standards. Even Kird Ape agrees.

  21. I have some comments on all points but I do think we do need to go back to 30,000 feet about what we are trying to do with lair. Since we are in a core set I think "teaching allied colours" is a legitmate goal. But, the explanation that it's an alternate way of paying for a multi-coloured spell is simply not fitting with the "5th stage of design"... this is mechanic-first so far.

    But something struck me while reading the comments above "can lair look different and different rarities" + "this is a more complicated way of doing off-colour activations" + "adaptation vs. lair" = this idea that may seem out of left field:

    What if we gave 10 off-colour allied-pair activations at common, all giving the colour-designated boost AND ALSO implement lair in a much more flavourful way? Adaptation is a great flavourful mechanic to follow the set that is all about transformation and it's still the "kird ape" mechnic so it's still not creating a new mechanic.

    So, if we "teach allied pairs" with the more grokkable allied-pair activations at common, that frees us up to use the "adapt" mechanic which is slightly more complicated at uncommon, rare, (and mythic?).

    For example, we could do things like:

    Vaportrail Imp 2B
    Creature - Imp C
    U: ~ gains flying until end of turn

    Sea-ready Captain W
    Creature - Human U
    Island adapt - ~ is unblockable as long as you control an island.

  22. .... and some other flavourful names for the ability some of which pay homeage to RPGs but suffer a little less from the problem that adapt sounds like a one way street but you could actually lose the bonus if you lose a land:

    Island adapt
    Island ability
    Island skill
    Island proficiency
    Island bonus
    Island advantage
    Island flair
    Island boost
    Island aptitude
    Island power

    I think I like boost or skill best actually

  23. [1] I agree with static only at uncommon and higher rarities but have been convinced that there should be no lair at all - just allied colour activated abilities. If we are being honest with ourselves, while I think it does not put lair quite as front and centre which we would all like because we think it's cool, but it really does accomplish "teaching allied colours" much better.

    [2] I would think creatures only. It would be interesting to see a planeswalker or enchantment with lair in the fall set that follows, but I don't think that would be right in a core set.

    [3] If we agree to go with off colour activations at common, and potentially another name, then I think it could be completely (or near) symmetric across the colours.

    I do still think that if it's called lair, though, it should be exclusively or focussed on naya colours because green cares the most about land. If we do that, the way we compensate is perhaps with a higher amount of ETB cards in UB. But, the more I think about activated abilities at common, and a new flavour interpretation of lair, the more convinced I am that would be better and that may make this moot or at least need to be revisted after we know what we are doing on those other decisions.

    [4] Again I think splitting our "allied pair lessons" into two different mechanical implementations means we have a lot more room to play - 10 common allied pair activations would be fine and leave room for 5 uncommons and maybe even a rare cycle if one emerges.

    [5] I don't have any strong opinions as to what are the abilities granted at common but I do want to say that switching to mana activation opens up some options. We might have two abilities per colour. We might just let the cards decide and not worry too much about deciding ahead of time what gets granted because by being an activated ability, it removes the need for them all to be the same. If we already were leaning towards having a range of abilities at uncommon and above, this point is again moot if we go with activated abilities at common.

  24. I am against skewering colors. One of the things I like the most about Lair is that it gives you flexibility when choosing what color to play during drafting.

    The benefits of color flexibility are lost if Lair doesn't exist in all colors.

    Also, Lair isn't really a subtheme that you build around.

    When a set skewers a mechanic into 2-3 colors, it's usually because that mechanic is a subtheme that you build around, such as with Bloodthirst + Goblin Fireslinger or Skaab Goliath + Armored Skaab. By skewering the colors that these themes appear in, there's enough density of on-theme cards within those colors to draft a deck with, without having the theme take over the whole set.

    Currently, Lair is more like a way of costing creatures rather than a hoop that you jump through.

    An example that's closer to Lair is Phyrexian Mana. One of the things that Phyrexian Mana did was to allow you to get around color costs, so I think it made sense to have Phyrexian Mana in all colors.

    On the other hand, if they wanted to do a hoop-and-reward thing with Phyrexian Mana, such as a "Play life gain effects to enable Phyrexian Mana spells" subtheme, then it might make sense to skewer Phyrexian Mana in a few colors.

    Do we want a build-around sub-theme like that for Lair?

  25. @HavelockV: I was always under the impression that Kird Ape was uncommon for the same reason Elite Vanguard is, but perhaps you're right.

    1. In light of HavelockV's thoughts, this may be a nonissue. But if we have common Lair cards across colors, then I'm not sure it's worse changing things for the two or three other lair cards in the set.

    2. As for card type, I think we want the commons to be creatures, but I could definitely see having an Aura as one of the unc/rares since giving a creature the ability seems like the same mind space to me.

    3. Because Lair is intended to show off ally color pairings I think we need to keep at least the commons even. If this were an expert expansion I'd want to weight it, but our intent here is to have it as a teaching tool, and limiting it might teach that green likes other colors rather than that each color likes some better than others.

    4. In keeping with our teaching goal, my vote is that if we use Lair at common we ought to have 10 commons. I'd then include the 2-4 noncommon designs that want it most. If we have lair only at higher rarities (at which point I'm not sure I'd want to use the mechanic at all), I'd go for one uncommon cycle and 2-3 rares/mythics as appropriate.

    5. The more I think about it, the more I like having stat bonuses across all colors as it lets us use Lair in more places without getting too complex. That said, since we still don't have a great setup, maybe we should go with something closer to our current implementation.

    My original thought on bonuses was:

    W: +1/+2 U: +0/+3 B: +2/+1 R: +3/+0 G: +2/+2 (interesting that the W/U and R/B bonuses are interchangeable, but I went for (Un)holy strength).

    I was thinking it might work better if we used slightly swingier numbers:

    W: +1/+3 U: +0/+4 B: +3/+1 R:+4/+0 G:+2/+2

    This is better balanced, but emphasizes the difference in power level of different bonuses, and neither option would let us bring back Kird Ape.

    If we go with a mix, my favorite combination was:

    W: Vigilance U: Flying B: Lifelink R: First Strike G: +1/+2

    The only bonuses that play similarly here are First Strike and +1/+2, and I think vigilance makes for as interesting green creatures as lifelink. No cool pump moments, but you fatty dominates the board. Maybe that's not a good thing as it will feel unbeatable though... Anyways, this setup also deals with the problems of too much deathtouch if we use that for black, and weird interactions if we use intimidate. The final option I'd propose would be:

    W: Lifelink U: Flying B: +3/+0 R: First Strike G: +1/+2

    I feel like it's a bit weird to only have one color grant a bonus instead of an ability, so if we're intent on Kird Ape we should probably make another color give +X/+Y.

  26. I'm not sure why you guys keep comparing Lair to Metalcraft instead of Scry or Bloodthirst. I don't think the Core vs. Block comparison carries water. Bloodthirst was on something like 11 cards at all rarities in M12; Scry showed up on even fewer in M11.

    So like I said, I think about 6 commons, 3 uncommons, and 2 or 3 rares/mythics are a better target than trying to fit in 10 at common alone.

    @Jay: "As an exercise, suppose that we put lair in Naya or Jund colors. How would we support multicolor decks in blue (and black/white)?"

    I like Naya better; Jund got Bloodthirst, and I like white for efficiency creatures, since lair supports efficient aggro/midrange creatures.

    If you want to show off blue + its non-lair partner color, you build cards to support slow/controlling decks to fight against the Lair-based pressure in limited.

    It's like how M12 Bloodthirst decks thrive in RB aggro. To highlight the non-bloodthirstiness of White, you make cards like Timely Reinforcements that are strong at snuffing aggro decks.

    I also like Trevor's idea for adding ETB/colored activations for blue and buddy to contrast with lair in Naya. (This would also be a neat setup for a block featuring a Naya vs UB faction conflict.)

  27. I agree with Daniel about the numbers, but I'm really interested what others think about the idea of using lair exclusively at uncommon, rare, and mythic - maybe around 6-10 cards total... and using off colour activations to "teach allied/enemy pairs" at common? I think that is such an elegant best-of-both worlds solution.

    I also think that "bonus", "boost", or "proficiency" is much better name for the static ability than lair. Lair is flavourfully associated with ETB to me - it's where the creature is coming from. The other terms I've suggested (see above for more brainstorming) all fit much better with a static condition that can come and go depending on whether you have the land or not, I think.

  28. [3]There are specific benefits to having 10 Lair cards.

    Lair is a kind of loose multicolor cost. You get better cards because of the land condition, but you don't get punished as hard for color screw. It's about flexibility in your color choices, so it makes sense to have it in all colors. It makes no sense to say "You can splash colors safely - but only if you're playing within these 3 colors."

    If we have a double cycle, Lair can lead you to splash lands in either direction. In draft, you're not always lured to shift colors in the same direction.

    So those are the specific benefits, but what are the specific disadvantages of using a keyword many times? So far, I see no comment in the form of "if we use Lair a lot, this bad thing will happen."

    Of course, if we overdo the "almost multicolor" theme in a core set, that would be bad, since core sets must represent normal Magic. We don't want players thinking that solidly 3-color decks are a normal way of playing Magic.

    But that is bad regardless of whether we use Lair or off-color activations.

    The real issue is hammering the "almost multicolor" at just the right strength without overdoing it.

    I'm hoping we can make a loose, flexible, non-mandatory multicolor that is different from the kind of all-out multicolor that an expert set would do. It will be about splashing a few lands, and there will be interesting choices during draft as you have more freedom to shift colors, or sometimes even choose to run a card without its Lair bonus.

    Lair doesn't determine whether you go aggro, control, or whatever. It doesn't make you play lots of artifacts or make you mill yourself for gain. It's just a kind of color costing. As long as it doesn't make you go solidly 3-color, the set can show all types of normal Magic.

    The number of times we use a keyword like Lair is a superficial difference. If we overdo the theme of multicolor, it won't matter what name it's called by, or whether it's an unnamed mechanic like off-color activations.

    Heck, if the number of times a keyword is used is so important, why don't we un-keyword Lair? Or, imagine if we keyworded off-color activations. Would the number distribution you proposed suddenly become problematic? Would you reduce the number of off-color activations and move them to uncommon, even though its function hasn't changed?

    M11 and M12 each used its repeating mechanic a different number times. There is no fixed number. They both used it just enough to allow the mechanic to do what it wants to do. We should do the same.

    For example, Scry could do its thing just by being on specific cards like Preordain. It would just be a modular tool that could be plugged into many decks.

    On the other hand, Bloodthirst represents a particular reckless play style. It needs a cluster of cards that reward aggression in order for that play style to work, so they used the Bloodthirst on more cards than they did for Scry.

    So I think we need to ask, "How do we want Lair to affect play?" and base the number of Lair cards on that.

    Some associated questions are:
    -Is that type of play fitting for a core set?
    -If we don't want it to affect play so much, why are we keywording instead of just having a Kird Ape cycle?
    -If we use a keyword many times, what bad things would happen?

  29. I'm kind of confused as well, there are already lair lands, so why introduce something like this?