Thursday, December 22, 2011

CCDD 122211—Bellow

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/22/2011 Last week I asked my Twitter followers whether this card should be red or green. From their responses, I am convinced it should either be mono-green or red-and-white. Take a look before I get 'splainy.

The trick is that this spell basically has two modes. You can cast it on defense to keep some or all of your opponent's team from swinging in at you. That's primarily white and secondarily green (and maybe blue). It's notably un-red. You can alternately cast it on offense to keep a bunch of your opponent's dudes from blocking. That's primarily red and secondarily green (and maybe black). It's notably un-white.*

*You will find a couple cards like Off Balance and Droning Bureaucrats that prevent attacking as well as blocking in white, but those have more to do with Pacifism being the archetypal white removal spell than some mini-"can't block" theme hiding in white.

The common element is green, so it makes sense to just print Bellow as a straight-up green card as seen above. The other possibility is a multicolor red and white card (not hybrid). That's a fine combination because it uses one color's strength to cover the weakness of the other and vice-versa, all in one tight package. Intimidation Bolt is a similar execution: They combined the act of zapping a creature (red) with the result of scaring its friends from attacking you (white), something neither color could do on its own. Thundersong Trumpeter is an even more direct analog.

There's a big difference between this card and "Creatures target player controls can't attack or block this turn." First, it's based directly off a relatively new green ability thanks to Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, Battering Wurm and Aura Gnarlid. I love that this green evasion is based off of power. It's so flavorful.

Next, it requires you to have a creature to cast it on. This doesn't matter on offense, but it means the card isn't better than Fog on defense. Finally—and this is something I'm considering changing about the card—it affects everyone's creatures regardless of who controls the bellowing creatures. On one hand, that means you can cast it on your opponent's biggest creature to keep the rest of her team from attacking (which is a little weird). On the other hand, if you cast it on your own biggest creature, the smaller members of your own team can't attack (which sucks). Can we remove that wrinkle?

It's much harder to make a stupid mistake playing this version, but it reads pretty awkwardly. Does the improved conceptual and strategic focus make up for that? I think so, but maybe we can do better:

I'm not sure that's legit, but it's pretty clear and a lot more fun to read. Maybe there's still a better wording? If so, the Templating team (you) will find it.


  1. How about:

    Tap all creatures you don't control with power less than target creature you control.

  2. I like the last version but I think it gets so much simpler as a sorcery it would have to go that way even though it's way cooler as an instant.

    Bellow 1G
    Target creature roars.
    Creatures with power less than that creature can't block this turn.

    I think Havelock's solution is good if you want to keep it an instant but then it needs to be Frighten 1U or 1B

  3. Oh another thought on the green version, since it's maybe a little underpowered as a sorcery, it could also give the creature +1/+1

  4. Tapping is very ungreen. I'm not sure what color(s) Havelock's version would be, but it's not mono-green. I do like how succinct it is.

    It's also a very valid argument that Bellow shouldn't prevent attacking at all as a green card. Trevor's version represents that path pretty well.

  5. I'm actually in favor of bleeding a little bit of tapping into green now and again. There's nothing especially "ungreen" about it other than the fact that almost no green cards do it. There's plenty of ways to justify it flavorfully; for example, the "tangled in roots/vines" sort of spell is a staple of the fantasy genre, but doesn't really have a place in Magic right now. Not to mention that green really hurts for removal, hard or soft, and the occasional tapping effect would help make that less of a problem.

  6. Yeah, honestly, I never thought Timbermare was especially weird.

  7. I don't think the first version is unprintable. Just cast it after you attack.

    A lot of players might mess it up the first time, but they'll figure out the right time to play after that.

  8. How about: Creatures your opponents control with power less than the power of target creature you control can't attack or block this turn.

    If we do decide tapping is fine: Tap all creatures your opponents control with power less than the power of target creature you control.

  9. Timbermare is weird: It's from Planar Chaos.

    That said, it's true that green can tap things when appropriate—Entangling Vines is the best example I know of. But that's not a reason to use tapping in green anywhere we can avoid it. Doing so blurs color identity because it bleeds a schtick that is vastly focused in white and blue outward.

    I could very much envision an area affect version of Vines:

    Deepthicket Entanglement 2G
    Tap each creature target opponent controls.
    (Or maybe "Tap each creature without forestwalk")

    Bellows has a very different flavor and it's that flavor that makes "can't attack" and/or "can't block" a great fit but tapping not so much.

  10. We could use the tech from Hunter's Insight.
    "Choose target creature you control. Creatures you don't control with power less than that creature..."

  11. I think care can be taken to make sure any Green tapping effects feel true to that color and not something that's just been ported over from white or blue. I like Arachnus Web, for example, as a piece of removal that's a very uniquely green variant of a traditionally white effect.

    There's room for the occasional bit of entangling vines, or sleep-inducing pollen, or paralyzing venom, or etc. that are so common in just about every other fantasy world but have to go mostly absent in Magic because the best mechanics for modeling them don't line up with the color they fall under. A little bit of tertiary bleeding of a very simple and basic effect won't do much harm, and green could really use the added utility in terms of pseudo-removal and/or pseudo-evasion.

  12. Choose one - Creatures with power less than that of target creature you control can't block this turn; or creatures with power less than that of target creature you control can't attack this turn

  13. I don't think it's a big color-pie problem if Bellow tapped creatures. Needing a bigger creature than your opponent does much towards making it Green. It would play very differently from traditional tapping in other colors.

    In terms of power, if Bellows tapped, it would stop the opponent's attack, then make your guys unblockable on your turn, which might be too good. In that case, maybe it could be ok as an Uncommon, on par with Sleep. It would be fun to put it in M13.

    I would avoid using the word "target creature bellows" because it might make players wonder if there are rules about bellow that they need to know.

    Bradley Rose's wording seems perfectly understandable.

  14. I'm not advocating that Bellow specifically be tapping creatures. I just think that the mechanic should be occasionally considered for green cards. Simply saying "can't attack or block this turn" is perfectly serviceable in this case. It's a wonderful card.

  15. I think we're agreed that tapping can be used in green for things like entangling vines, webs and venom (I'd forgotten about the green snakes from Kamigawa).

    My favorite wording so far is a mix:

    Choose target creature you control. Creatures opponents control with less power than the chosen creature can't attack or block this turn.