Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CCDD 122111—Return to Sender

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/21/2011 - As I was working on this card, I got a sense of Deja Vu. I was concerned that I'd already designed it. After some searching, I'm relieved to say that this it's the opposite of Feign Mana. I'm still drilling the same well that is Mana Drain's heredity, but along a more dangerous line—cheap countermagic.

Instead of countering your opponent's spell and stealing their mana, you counter their spell and refund their mana. The question is whether it's still too good. The effect is worse than Cancel, which is why it costs less. At this cost, it's worse than Counterspell, so it's not automatically broken. But how often will the refund matter? If you're countering someone's creature or sorcery and it's not their last card in hand, chances are decent they'll get to cast something else from their hand. If you're countering an instant chances are low they'll have another instant they want to cast—unless you're in a counter control mirror. Even so, just the chance that they've got two copies of the spell in question adds risk to this efficient permission spell.

Is that fair? I honestly don't know. Might depend on the metagame. It's certainly strong, and its presence will affect decks it's not even in just as Lightning Bolt did for the last couple years. I doubt it's bannably broken, but it may well just be unfun to play against in every blue deck. At least the CC cost keeps it from being in every deck that can splash blue.

I went for the eloquent version above, but we can soften the edge of this card while making it a closer homage to the original... at the expense of wordiness and complexity:

This is pretty fair. You're down a card and two mana while your opponent is down a card (and probably opportunity) but not mana. If you cast this during your opponent's precombat main phase, they'll have the mana back to use after combat, allowing them to keep up pressure as long as they're not out of gas. If you cast it after that or during your turn, they'll be able to cast twice as many spells or perhaps one very large spell on their next turn.

Cool that this is possible now that they've removed mana burn from the game.


  1. The second version seems much worse. Your opponent now has the chance to tap their lands and play something more expensive than they otherwise would have been able to.

    Actually, this could add another layer to it. If you draw a card that won't be useful in the current game, you can cast it, "Return" it, and play a bomb on your next turn. I wonder how low you could cost this:

    Address Unknown
    Counter target spell you control. At the beginning of your next main phase, add mana to your mana pool equal to its mana cost.

  2. I like the first version. I think it's awesome!

    I think most 2cc hard counters are problematic because they make decks based on 1-on-1 answers better than decks built around synergistic threats. (The latter is more fun as well as diverse.) But this one doesn't cause that problem.

    It doesn't allow a game plan of "counter what you do every turn." It's balanced because your opponent will likely play a replacement 2-drop and you have to try and catch up somehow.

  3. The first version looks good to me. It's clearly worse than counterspell, which is good, and better than cancel, but not necessarily _strictly_ better. In a long attrition, it's essentially equivalent to cancel, because it will remove the opponent's card and they usually won't have anything to do with the mana. On turn two, its obviously better than cancel. On turn 3, its probably worse than cancel, since the extra U is probably not useful to you, and it costs the opponent a card, but not tempo. So I think its pretty well placed, though I'm not sure.

    I like the idea of the second one, but agree the extra words are probably not helpful. It'll usually be more useful, since it slows the opponent down a bit, but often backfire if they drop a 5-drop or two 2-drops on turn 3[1]. I think there's an interesting idea there, but its probably more complicated than its worth.

    [1] And don't try to counter devil's play with it! :)

  4. I think both versions have merit. I like the first one most and would change it to UW to restrict it more and because it fits the colour pie even better. Why would a U/B or RUG mage be giving mana back!? but this is exactly up UW's alley.

    For the second version, I would go in another direction, and have it give you the mana. Not sure how to cost this 2UU, 3UU, or maybe even 1UUR as it's basically feign mana tacked onto cancel. At 3UU it would be constructed playable only in very few circumstances but it would be a blowout in limited sometimes - a bit better than lost in the mist.

  5. I like the idea of making the first version of this. The drawback is substantial in that it isn't always a Time Walk early on.

    I do feel like it should be costed at WU, as well.

  6. "Return the mana spent to cast..."

    So awesome. I can imagine lots of interesting cards using that concept.