Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CCDD 011812—Runeward Bear

Cool Card Design of the Day
1/18/2012 - A lot of the value of hexproof—when it's not making non-interactive cards like Invisible Stalker—is the ability to enchant your creature without risking being two-for-oned. Today I'm proposing a very marginal ability that offers much of the same benefit without making your creature entirely immune to your opponent's removal.

As soon as Split Second debuted in Time Spiral (on cards like Stonewood Invocation) I recognized it as a potential solution to the Aura problem. I'm sure you're familiar with the issue, but to be explicit: It sucks to cast Oakenform on your Centaur Courser only to have it Lightning Bolted in response. An aura with split second would avoid such problems. Runeward Bear has the same thing going for it. Once I declare that I'm targeting it with my Strands of Undeath, you won't be able to prevent it from resolving by killing my bear.

This ability (like an aura with split second) does not prevent your Runeward Bear from being killed by a Doom Blade after the spell has resolved, so it's no guarantee that you won't still be two-for-one'd, but it at least gives your creature the resilience it will have post-aura, which is relevant in the Lightning Bolt example, the Strands of Undeath example or with a Shielding Plax or Pentarch Ward.

If you're wondering why I didn't use a trigger ability ("Whenever you cast a spell targeting Runeward Bear, it gains hexproof until EOT"), it's because it doesn't do the job; your opponent can bolt your creature in response to the triggered ability.

The fact that the creature doesn't remain hexproof permanently is entirely the point of this proposal. It gives you enough time to bulk up your creature or enjoy your aura's ETB effect, but doesn't prevent future interaction. For those of you still wishing it wasn't vulnerable after your aura resolves I mocked up another version, but for the record it's not my preference:

My ideal solution would be an effect that gives your creature hexproof until the end of the turn in which you target it, so you can get at least one attack in with it, but I didn't figure out how to do that with a triggered ability that can't be responded too. Can abilities have split second? Seems like an ugly hack.


  1. I agree with this card design probably more than any other I've seen. One of the least-liked parts of Magic is the interaction between players and spells on the stack. It's common for a player opposing a red player to lose both a creature AND an aura targeting it because the red player was saving a Lightning Bolt or a Shock in case: 1) something bigger came along, or 2) something came along that would make that creature bigger.

    1. I think you were more on the money when you were discussing enchantment's with Split Second. Check this out:

      Platinumform 1GG
      Enchantment- Aura
      Spellbind ~ (Target a ~ as you cast this. As long as this spell is on the stack, players can't cast spells or activate abilities that target ~. This card enters the battlefield attached to that ~.)
      Spellbound creature gets +3/+3

      While the creature dying is a problem, it's a problem with Auras and not creatures. A creature with your ability just has a HUGE target on its fuzzy bear head. But with Spellbound Auras running around, players have to be more proactive with their removal and Auras become a lot better.

      I mean, it still opens the player up to a 2 for 1 after the fact (Unlike your v2.0 Runeward Bear), but it makes it much more intuitive for new players.

      It's also nice because it always FEELS relevant. Even if the opponent doesn't have removal right then, the ability MIGHT have done something. Runeward Bear has an ability that only comes up IF you cast an Aura targeting it. That's fine, but when it doesn't happen (most of the time, really) it feels... inelegant.

    2. Actually, thinking about this, what if the game had this change to the rules in general:

      When a permanent you control is the target of a spell or ability you control, it can't be targeted by spells or abilities your opponents control.

      That way there's no "weird" timing where a creature gets shocked in response to a giant growth, or a creature gets doombladed moments before it gets protection from black.


    3. I always thought auras were made wrong rules-wise. If "enchant creature" meant something like

      "When this enchantment enters the battlefield, if it's on the battlefield, you may choose a creature to attach it to."

      This way, if I have two bears, and my opponent bolts one, I can still attach the enchantment to the other. There's still potential card disadvantage involved, but auras aren't an auto-lose proposition that way. (The other plus-side is that the cards as printed wouldn't need to include this text at all - it's entirely in the rules side of things, right?)

    4. Wobbles, you underestimate Runeward Bear. You say that it has a big target on it because of its ability? That's *fantastic* because it makes the ability relevant even when you don't have an aura in hand/deck. Also remember that RB's ability works for equipment, sorceries, instants, and abilities on your permanents—making it a safer target for a wide array of effects, not just auras.

      Making all targets hexproof as a game rule defeats 90% of the purpose of instants. I can't get behind that suggestion at all.

      That said, I LOVE Spellbound. I like how you replaced "Enchant ~" with it and that it's not immune to countermagic. I also agree that it's always relevant where Runeward Bear's ability isn't (except psychologically). I'd make it a verb to match "enchant", perhaps "spellbind" and I wonder if the reminder text can be worded without "the stack" but it's basically genius.

    5. I'm not sure how that rule change makes everything hexproof. All it does is close the window of time for spells that kill my creature between when I cast my Aura and when it resolves. Just like your bears v1, the creature can still die after it's enchanted, just not while being enchanted.

      On being relevant, it's true that the ability makes the bears more attractive for kill spells, but that's the wrong kind of relevance in my mind. Think Flying. That makes the card more attractive as a target, but it also gives some immediate upside. Right now the bears seem like a two card combo: great when you get both parts, but otherwise underwhelming. Putting the ability on the enchantment (or making it a game rule) means that auras are predictably awesome. That's more fun to me.

      On auras etb then choosing: its not a bad solution, but it runs into awkward wording because the ability doesn't target so you can enchant hexproof/shrouded things. That's bad because it doesn't work like all the other targeting spells in the game.

    6. If you want the reminder text not to use the word Stack:

      Spellbind Creature (Target a creature as you cast this. Players can't cast spells or activate abilities that target that creature while it's being targeted by this card. This card enters the battlefield attached to that creature.)

  2. I don't think protective abilities for creatures like hexproof or the runeward ability is the answer to the Aura problem, because the fun with Auras is that you can mix and match creatures and abilities your own way. I wouldn't want Auras to become good only with a particular set of creatures. Also, if these creatures become prevalent, Auras have to be toned down in power level.

    I think Pasteur's solution makes the most sense. (Auras don't target and fizzle, they just become attached as they enter the battlefield.)

    By responding to an Aura spell with removal, you can limit the opponent's options, but not waste the Aura.

    The only problem is that you don't want to be forced to attach a beneficial Aura to an opponent's creature, if it's the only target. Some fix is necessary there. Maybe you can choose not to attach it to something and let the Aura die?

    So it might get reminder text like this for a year or so:
    Enchant creature (As this enters the battlefield, you may attach this to a creature.)

    Another solution is that Auras don't use the stack.

    Duncan's solution takes up a lot of space on Aura spells. It kind of reminds of the old rules, where if you respond to a +3/+3 Aura with a Lightning Bolt, the creature doesn't die because you only check for lethal damage after everything on the stack has resolved.

  3. My problem with Pasteur's wording twofold:

    1) It's exactly the same with only one creature in play. You've still got that awkward, unfun rules lawyery feel when somebody bolts your guy in response to an oakenform. If you're going to close that loophole, close it all the way.

    2) It doesn't work like targeting. Magic's built around using some of the same terminology multiple times to build predictability into the game. Having aura's act like they target, but not actually target, causes all sorts of weird rules things. Like pacifying Blastoderms. Or not letting me sac my creature when it gets fettered.

    Not using the stack is a little /too/ uninteractive for me. No more counterspells, no more using abilities before it gets stolen. I mean, split second is fine occasionally, but using it all the time really hurts some of magic's safety valves.

    As for Spellbind, I'm all for shortening it. That'd be one of the reasons to just make it a game rule (Your spells happen to your stuff first). Or just make an ability out of it for a set.

    Shorter Spellbind
    (Target a creature as you cast this. That creature has hexproof until this resolves. This card enters the battlefield attached to that creature.)

  4. Shorter Spellbind
    (Target a ~ as you cast this. That ~ has hexproof while this targets it. This card enters the battlefield attached to that ~.)

    Barely passes the twitter test. Can you shorten it further?

  5. How about:
    Spellbind (Other spells can't target this spell's target until this resolves.)

  6. Yeah, I very much prefer spellbind on some auras over conditional hexproof on some creatures as a set's solution to the aura problem.

    It's worth noting that "Enchant ~" doesn't get reminder text anywhere, including core set commons. I'm not saying we can print an aura with Spellbind in place of Enchant and not explain what that means, but we don't need the reminder above common and we don't need to include the "Enchant ~" part of reminder text at all, provided it's clear that Spellbind is just an enchancement of that. Perhaps "Safe Enchant ~" "Hexproof Enchant ~" "Fast Enchant ~".

    Making it a keyword that exists next to "Enchant ~" instead of in its place is also pretty clear, if less awesome/eloquent.

  7. Does this grok?

    Exigent Enchant Creature (Attach this to target creature as you cast it.)

    1. How many people know the word 'exigent?'
      Regardless, I much prefer Spellbind right now because it still interacts as expected with countermagic. Not a fan of how exigent works completely differently from every other spell in the game.

    2. Not enough! Magic is an excellent way to expand the vocabulary of children.

  8. You can still get two-for-oned.

    Take this:

    Cast Holy Strength (to use a simple example, but really any enchantment that doesn't grant hexproof or pro-black or make it black or something) on Runeward Bear.

    Cast Doom Blade (not in response). Two-for-one.

  9. Yes, I covered that in the article and it is intentional. If we wanted the creature to be immune to that, we'd just give it Hexproof.