Monday, December 12, 2011

21 Ways to Design a Card: Another Use for Transform

In continuation of my previous post, here's another use for the transform mechanic.

Once again, asking the question "What happens when a card and a spell don't have a 1:1 correspondence?" opens up a lot of potential designs.

This is one card:

And this is another card:

They transform into these:
» Click to Transform «

I hope you enjoyed this. I have a few more ideas I'd like to post on dual-faced cards.


  1. This is fantastic and you should do the other Magic possibilities (such as Karona) too. Go to it! Now! I command you!

    Also, I really love the Professor X card on its own merits. Stealing your opponent's spell is very mind-mastery. Magneto is cool, but I think he should do something a little more magnetic. Dunno.

    There is, unfortunately, I think a large problem that needs solution: now, once you have the combined permanent you can create any rules to solve problems like what happens if one half is sacrificed or bounced, but there is a more fundamental problem: Magneto and Professor X can be transformed by an effect like Moonmist. Now, if they are transformed but you only have one out, it would cause considerable problems. Even if you say they combine rather than transform, it doesn't help as they're dual-faced cards and thus, are eligible to transform.

    The solution would seem to me to either put down the clunky rules text on both that says they can't transform unless you control both of them, or, perhaps a new rule could be added to deal with combined cards; if it transforms into one half (or third) of a combined form, and the rest of the combined form aren't present, you transform it back (or sacrifice it, whichever plays better). The problem with this of course is a hypothetical (and very printable) card of, "Transform target permanent" causes a number of problems as it could transform only Magneto even if you have both him and Professor X in play.

    My personal suggestion is simply this: if a combined permanent isn't fully 'assembled', it's sacrificed. I would put an icon on each card to represent it's position in a combined permanent; 1 of 3, 2 of 2, etc.

    But I think this is a seriously brilliant innovation of transform. And hey, it works well with the transformers that unite into a big robot like the constructicons.

    But it seems like the perfect way to bring BFM and such cards into black-bordered Magic. Well done.

    You should send it to MaRo. I'm sure he'd put it into the file for 'the next time we do transform'. It might not work out, but I think it's too cool not to try.

  2. Check out the "God Link" mechanic from the Duel Masters TCG.

    I've tried experimenting with the concept in Magic in the past, maybe I ought to pick that up again. Fusing two or more beings into one is an incredibly common fantasy theme, and immediately resonant enough that a lot of weird rules stuff should be pretty intuitive. I'd gone with the concept of mixing-and-matching different sorts of Elemental creatures of different colors, along with a "color matters" theme to play with the ability to build your own multicolor creatures.

  3. Duel Masters is such a weird mixing ground for Magic. It's got all sorts of mechanics that then get poached for magic(double sided cards) and it gets the cool mechanics from Silver boardered Magic like BFG. I guess that's what you get from Magic's little brother.

    That said, I love the mechanic. I'd be surprised if it wasn't used in some way in the Innistrad block. In particular, it seems like a great mechanical key for the story line of Avacyn and Griselbrand. I mean, the love child of an Angel and a Demon is a key horror/fantasy trope and it would be an easy way to explain the mutual disappearance. It's also such a splashy mechanic that I think it's better suited for Mythic/rare cards and not for just commons in the set.

    That said, there are a few things to think about the design of Onslaught. First, is the mana cost to transform really necessary? One of the neat things about transform is that once you've jumped through the hoops, the game usually just gives it to you. With a card like this, it seems like it would be enough to just control both creatures at the same time. Similarly, while Onslaught is good Kozilek, it'd be nice to see some permutation of the ability the original halves had. Maybe:

    You choose all targets for all spells and abilities.
    Sacrifice a land: Destroy target permanent.

    or whatever. That at least makes it feel not only epic, but like an evolution from what came before it.

  4. Those are some great comments.

    For Magneto, the first ability that came to mind was "2R: For each artifact on the battlefield, that artifact deals 1 damage to target creature or player." But I wanted an ability that doesn't constrict the deck theme and could complement Professor X well in the same deck.

    I had heard about Godlink indirectly, but I thought it just allowed a creature with that mechanic to merge its textbox and characteristics with any other creature. I didn't know that it used the B.F.M. mechanic where the art links up.

    I also read that the Dual-Faced Cards from Duel Masters
    didn't have the "sleeves or checklists" workaround because those cards aren't directly shuffled into your deck. They're brought out indirectly by effects or something, if my understanding is correct. So maybe that's why they don't have Dual-faced Godlink cards.

    Once you do have Magic-style Dual-Faced Cards that get shuffled into your deck, using that for Godlink might actually be a natural step rather than a wacky one.

    Anyways, it's time I learned the rules and mechanics for every card game out there. Why haven't I done that already.

    As for Onslaught, I see now that the combined form doesn't have to be a inevitable, removal-proof game-ender to be worth the hoop-jumping difficulty and 2-for-1 risk. It could just be a powerful combination of abilities such as a pinger and a deathtouch/self-untapping creature merging. After all, combining is optional, and even if one half is killed, the rules could say that the other half flips back, instead of being sacrificed. With that combo route rather than the hexproof Eldrazi route, it doesn't need a mana cost to limit the merging to the late game.

    There could be some really elegant cards where the abilities merge in a cool way.

    I personally think it could work at other rarities. There could be a Horse and a Bird that you could merge into a Pegasus, for example. Or a Pegasus and a Soldier that you could merge into a flying Knight. It could work for a nifty feel, not just an awe-inspiring one.

  5. I could have sworn that I've seen Duel Masters cards that used both the Godlink and Psychic (double-faced) mechanics... might have been my imagination.

    I'm honestly much more attracted to the linking-up part of this than the double-faced part of it. B.F.G.-style cards are complex and cool enough all on their own that you don't need to involve the madness of DFCs as well.

  6. That's really clever. I like the "has hex proof unless" -- that means its not completely unanswerable, but your opponenet will probably have to trade two-for-one, which is about right for a big splashy monster.

    Having double-faced cards that merge seems to remove some of the rules problems with BFM. The way I assume it works is that the ability says something like "at end of turn, if you control both, you may flip them". Then, if someone kills one in response, the other doesn't flip (I think).

    And once flipped, they count as _one_ permanent (made of two cards). But IIRC all spells always refer to permanents, not cards, on the battlefield, which means that if anything kills it, flips it, returns it to hand, shuffles it into a library, etc, it always applies to both cards, and can never leave half of the creature stranded.

    I'm sure there are some rules problems, but I can't think of any at the moment, which is awesome for such a surprising mechanic. The only edge case I can think of is if you gain control of Xavier from another player, and then merge him with your own Magneto, the resultant gestalt won't have a clearly defined owner. But everything else seems to work?

  7. Oh no... it seems I just reinvented the wheel. The flip into B.F.M. mechanic is call Psychic Link it seems.

  8. Magneto and Prof X are pretty sweet. I do wish the merged version felt more similar to the original two.

    I think Alex is right that Magic would want to explore black-bordered BFM well before mixing it with transform, even if this example shows that can work together very nicely.

    I'm with Jack on how awesome "hex proof unless damaged" is. Actually, summing it like that makes me realize we probably don't need the "5". Not like anyone's pinging it.

    Finally Chah, if you did want to do a series about mechanics from other games—particularly games like Duel Masters that are harder for English-speakers to get into—I would read the hell out of that.

    Nice work.

  9. "hexproof unless damaged (any amount)" seems good.

    One of the topics I intended to write about in this series is "take inspiration from other games" and it would be interesting to do a subsection about Duel Master mechanics.

  10. Jay: Actually I'm not sure I would want to do BFM without transform at all. I think Chah is right that it's much more interesting if the cards do something alone, and what else makes sense for half of a BFM to do other than to have something on the other side?

    Either you need both to be able to play them at all, which works in the rules, but is basically printing "here is a two-card combo", and we don't really need _specific_ two card combos, there'll always be plenty of those. Or you can play one half without the other, in which case, what stats is it going to have, etc?

  11. Ah, but you're assuming a half-side can't also function as a single card, Jack. It worked for DuelMasters, it could work for Magic.

  12. Do you know how it does work in duelmasters? I tried to google for it, but it didn't really make it clear. As best as I could tell:

    * The creatures have artwork which joins together (no problem there)

    * When they're joined together, you make one larger creature which has the abilities of both. No rules problem, but it means you need abilities which work synergistically on the same creature (eg. ping and deathtouch would be scary, but two tap abilities would be bad)

    * And all the other aspects of the cards are also combined. In magic, that would presumably mean the card has a mana cost the sum of the two separate mana costs, or possibly two different mana costs (that currently exists on spells and not on permanents). It _could_ have two different P and T, I think, but the rules results would be bizarre, so it should presumably have both. It presumably has the combined creature types and colors? But either way, you need extra rules in the comprehensive rules or on the card to specify what happens to those.

    * The cards usually (I think) have an extra ability which works only when they're combined, to provide a decent bonus for being able to do so. You obviously can do that in magic, (although sometimes you won't need to if the abilities are synergistic enough), but it does add more text space.

    * I think, when the combined creature dies, only one half does? I'm not sure. If so, you could do that in magic, but it would require an extra rule, and contradict the "default" assumptions on how a combined permanent should work.

    The biggest problem I see if that with the transform version, you can see at a glance what the abilities and stats are, whereas with the non-transform version it looks like it would be messy (whether it's explained by rules or by a special frame), and that it _looks_ more like a single permanent.

    Is there a better way? I'd be happy to see that it does work, but if people have to understand transform cards anyway, that version seems both simpler and splashier, so I don't see the advantage of doing non-transform version first[1].

    [1] Unless you specifically want to avoid transform cards, in which case I agree you could find another way to do it.

  13. It's definitely a challenge and interesting to think about. A couple possibilities:

    Talrim Eunich 2G
    2/2 monk
    Merge — As long as you control Talrim Acolyte, they are one creature named Talrim Ascendant. It has all characteristics of both cards.

    Talrim Acolyte 2R
    2/1 warrior
    First strike
    Merge — As long as you control Talrim Eunich, they are one creature named Talrim Ascendant. It has all characteristics of both cards.

    In this case, they would change zones together and their new form's stats are entirely derived by their individual forms. Actually, it would probably have to be an ETB ability that requires you to choose cards to merge in case you have two of one before you play the other...

    Talrim Eunich 2G
    2/2 monk
    When ~ or a Talrim Ascendant ETB under your control, you may merge ~ with a Talrim Acolyte you control. If you do, they become one creature named Talrim Ascendant. It has all characteristics of both cards.

    Talrim Acolyte 2R
    2/1 warrior
    First strike
    As long as ~ is merged, it gets +1/+2 and has trample and haste.

    A little weird

    Another possibility is to avoid the confusion of adding stats together and spell it out explicitly. In this case, I think only one of the cards can be a creature.

    Yari Purist W
    1/1 priest
    As long as you control a Way of the Yari, ~ and it are one card named Ideal Yari. It's a 6/6 indestructible Avatar enchantment creature.

    Way of the Yari WW
    White creatures you control have lifelink.

    You could also ignore Duel Masters and do it the way BFM does. You just have to have both cards in your hand to cast them (or graveyard to reanimate them).

    All of these are significantly weird and complicated. I honestly doubt they'd be printed while Wizards still has more sensible tricks up their sleeve. But you never know.

  14. Don't forget S.N.O.T.! (Which is particularly amusing with Spitting Image and suchlike.)

    I loved the idea here. I think it is a good solution for doing black-bordered B.F.M. (well, as good as anything using the transform mechanic can be). It's awesome for getting that visceral punch that a gigantic combined creature should have.