Tuesday, May 15, 2012

M13 Trajectories: Bond Questions in Progress

In Goblin Artisan's virtual M13 set, we have been using a keyworded version of the Kird Ape ability as the returning mechanic, calling it Bond. As we gained more feedback from people who looked over the set file for us, it seems that for some people the mechanic just isn't doing much. This is how we've been attempting to adapt the set.

The Kird Ape mechanic is similar to a multicolor cost, except that it is more tolerant to color screw. Just like multicolor, you can get a better creature than you usually get for the cost because of the extra color commitment. But if you don't have the extra color right away, you can at least cast the card without the bonus and hope to draw the land later.

One problem with this mechanic is that there is no visceral experience attached to the card. It's more like a costing mechanic and it's not about something that you get to do or something that rewards you for a hoop you jump through.

It's interesting to think what makes up a visceral experience. Imagine testing a landfall creature, and measuring the emotional reactions of the player using some nodes hooked to the player's brain. The machine plots a chart of the player's mental reactions. Imagine that every time that player plays a land, there's a little spike in that player's visceral reactions. Now my creature gets +2/+2! Now I get to attack! The same kind of spike could probably occur with a coin-flip spell. When you're about to see the coin land, there's a climb representing anticipation, then whether you win or you lose, there's a big emotional reaction of some kind. Now, I hate coin flipping as a mechanic, but I'm just saying here that at least these create some kind of emotional reaction. It doesn't have to be about adrenaline, though. Perhaps the way you feel good about having a choice, such as with Scry, could also count. With that image in mind, does Bond create an emotional or visceral reaction?

One of the comments that I've heard about Bond is that it feels good to have the bonus. I don't experience it in that way, but different players can perceive things very differently. Perhaps some players find it very enjoyable to control a Kird Ape and a Forest, a feel that the Forest is constantly emitting a +1/+2 boost for your Kird Ape. Those players are basking in the feeling you get when you receive some in-game bonus, and they must be enjoying it all the time the cards are there on the board. I'm trying to imagine how it feels for some other players — it might be similar to when you're wearing a new jacket that you've just bought and really like. You look down, you notice you're still wearing it, and you feel happy all the time.

I don't experience it that way, though. I experience the mechanic as a kind of cost, a color requirement that lets you have a creature that's undercosted by 1. Imagine having a Common vanilla 4/4 creature for 3G. I like that card. Now, imagine having a 3G 1/1 creature that has "this enters the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters on it." It has no extra abilities like a Triskelion. For the sake of example, let's say there are no other cards that interact with or feed off of +1/+1 counters in the set.

Do I like the card on the right? Sure, I get a 4/4 for 3G. Do I experience any visceral reaction while it's in play? No. There is no sensation of receiving a bonus; I don't look at the card while it's in play and feel "Yes! It's constantly getting +3/+3! I love the bonus!" It's not that I don't prefer the bonus as much as other players do, it's that I feel nothing for the bonus: I don't like the boost, I don't dislike the boost, and I don't feel so-so about the boost. It just doesn't register as any kind of thing. This must have something to do with it being unconditional, because I do enjoy my counters on a Gorehorn Minotaurs. But when it's like this, it feels like a textier way to say "this is a 4/4 for 3G" and there is no "bonus" of any kind to feel anything about.

So, when I play a Hillside Charger in a Green-Red deck, where I always expect it to have a Mountain by the time I cast it, I feel the same as if I had played a Streetbreaker Wurm. I like the efficiency and stats. I like the protection from color screw. At the same time I don't experience any sensation of receiving a bonus while it's in play.

Of course, creating a visceral experience isn't the only reason to do a mechanic. I was originally attracted to how this mechanic might make the process of choosing your colors in draft and building your sealed pool intriguing. That probably shouldn't be the main reason for a mechanic, but it is a plus. 

Some mechanics like cycling just exist to make the set function better. One mechanic that could have been used as the returning mechanic is Landcycling cards such as Chartooth Cougar or Basic Landcycling cards such as Gleam of Resistance. Arguably, it's an emotionally neutral mechanic and you might not feel anything while cycling a card, but it would be still be worthy as a kind of backbone structure of the set that allows you to play more colors, which is fun.

It might actually make more sense if Basic Landcycling was the returning keyword for our set and the Kird Ape mechanic was used without being keyworded. Of course, that would bring up questions such as whether that style of multicolor play belongs in a core set or not, whether Landcycling is resonant enough, and whether you would want to devote a whole chunk of a core set to enablers like Landcycling and another whole chunk of the set to rewards for it like Kird Ape. But at least it's worth mentioning it as an example that some mechanics can be a backbone mechanic that supports the set in the background without being charged with visceral feelings.

So a mechanic doesn't absolutely have to be visceral-charged. However, when I imagine players having a choice of playing any set, I just feel that they would want to play a set where the card's ability more or less invokes an emotional or visceral response rather than just strategic considerations. This is especially important when the mechanic in question is the only set mechanic (such as the returning mechanic in a core set).

When determining how "visceral" a mechanic is, the way we use the mechanic matters because the same mechanic can be experienced in different ways depending on the cards that it goes on and the the environment surrounding it. For example, I mentioned cycling as a more or less emotionally invisible card, but there is nothing emotionally neutral about a Resounding Thunder or Resounding Roar.

I described above how a 4-drop 4/4 feels the same as a 4-drop 1/1 that enters the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters to me. But there are times where such a thing does feel like a bonus and produces an emotional reaction. For example, if I used Travel Preparations to put counters on the creature myself, then I feel happy the whole time those boosted creatures are on the battlefield. If I jump through a hoop and get a Gorehorn Minotaurs Bloodthirsted, I see the +1/+1 counters every time I look down and feel happy about it all the time they are in play.

In terms of Bond, one of the cases I do feel something about the bonus is if I cast a Kird Ape on turn 1, then watch it as it grows on turn 2. It actually does change, and it grows past a state where it's vulnerable to 1-point burn spells, so I do feel something about it at that moment.

Another is when it grows in steps, such as Matca Rioters. For some reason, when it keeps growing and you don't know how large it will get to grow in any given game, it does feel like a bonus. Plus it does take work and effort to get it big, unlike something you expect to be automatically be turned on like the Hillside Charger above, and that counts towards how you perceive it.

Yet another example is Harbor Serpent, where you see the Islands you need for big attack gradually accumulating, like a ticking time bomb.

And finally, if your deck intends to turn on a Bond creature with a splashed land, it can make the moment of drawing the splashed land feel very special.

Since the beginning, we've been discussing that splashing should be encouraged since it creates a moment when your creatures "turn on," but we have also been conscious of how we have to encourage splashing without encouraging heavy multicolor as in Shards of Alara or Ravnica. New players are just learning how to attack and cast spells, and they should not be required to know how to build a complex mana base in order to win.

Some of the early designs in our files looked like this:

This is meant to create a moment where the creature "turns on" — namely, when you play this on turn 2 and play an Island on turn 3. More importantly, it encourages you to play heavily in your main color of White (as the WW cost hopefully communicates) while also encouraging you to play at least a few Islands, as a splash if not your main color. It may not always come out on turn 2, but a 2/3 flyer is fine on turn 4 in Limited. It's no more harsh on players than a Armored Warhorse or a Chapel Geist. The harshest thing for beginners is if the card makes it optimal for players to play 3 colors evenly, because you would have to make difficult mana choices that beginners can't handle. Cards like this make sure that heavy multicolor isn't optimal in the environment.

However, we were given the advice that this mechanic is going to be about multicolor no matter how we approach it, and the same card that encourages multicolor should not also be telling players to focus on their main colors. (By none other than the awesome designer Gregory Marques).

I could not understand this comment, but it has stuck in this our group as a guideline. To me, it doesn't feel as if the same card that is encouraging multicolor is also pulling you in the other direction, it feels like it's encouraging you to play heavy white and at least a little of blue. That's exactly what the costs on the card state. Maybe some R&D testing in the past has proven this wrong already in terms of player psychology. I would really like to know.

If these commons were multicolor cards like in Ravnica, then yes it would mathematically lead to 3+ color play, even if each card only has 2 colors on it, due to the difficulty of picking up enough playables when you limit your picks to a particular 2-color pair. But these cards are playable on their own without the bonus, precisely because they have good stats thanks to the heavy color cost. Perhaps it is deemed wrong to give players too many options on a card (such as the option to splash an Island for this Pegasus instead of playing it as an Armored Warhorse), of which only some of them will be utilized in any given build.

Anyways, the ideas behind that comment have been a learning experience for me and while I'm still not fully sure whether they apply to the card above or not, I've tried to apply those lessons in other cards I design.
  • Evaluate cards based on what it looks like it's telling the player to do, not what the card makes it strategically correct to do.
  • Let players play their spells.
But before that, at around the same stage as I proposed the Pegasus card above, I proposed land cards like these to support cards like the Pegasus:

The reason I made these cards was that Bond can create a visceral experience if it "turns on" at some point in the game rather than always being on. Splash lands are fickle; sometimes you get a splash land you only have 2 copies of right in your opening hand, but sometimes you splash 4 lands and don't draw any during the game. I wanted to create a "turn-on" moment in every game more or less regularly, and make sure it mostly happens in the mid to late game. These cards build up to that moment like a Harbor Serpent.

These cards reinforce the style of focusing on your main colors while still splashing lands, a style that a beginner can play. It creates an effect on the game that if you really want to splash some lands, you really have to focus on your main colors. It requires triple lands of the same type; if you dedicate your deck to an even split of 2 colors (say, 8-9 lands of each color), you can get a splash land both consistently and without risk, but you get it around the turn that you can cast a Kindercatch. If you play more colors, you get the splash lands much later, probably too late.

There are two problems with these lands: these would either have to be common, or replace the basic land slot in boosters at a particular frequency such as one out of every two packs. I would love to do something like that, but it's probably too funky to do in a core set.

Secondly, even skilled, experienced players can look at these and not interpret them as lands intended for 2-color + splash decks; I've received comments concerned that they would enable Shards of Alara style decks.

Perhaps if there is some future fan expansion set that features playing 4 colors, where you focus on 2 main colors early and get 2 splash colors later, these would go well in that set, replacing the basic land slot in boosters. For some reason, I feel that it could be particularly applicable if the designer of the set happens to have the initials B.R.

More recently, though, we've been trying to make Bond more of a visceral experience using other, more conventional means.

This card below by Jules was really liked by the team. It helped us settle in the current direction of Bond. In Magic, there are many cards that say "Do A. If you satisfy condition, also do B instead" such as Brimstone Volley. However, those cards just don't feel like core set cards. Core set is where you lay down the basics rather than show complex versions where different effects are layered on top of each other. Vaportrail Imp is great because it feels like a core card despite having two modes.

However, this card also shows the limitation of Bond, where you have a vanilla creature turning into a French vanilla creature. There seems to be surprisingly narrow space for a French Vanilla card that feels powerful without being broken. Unlike an activated ability, where you can tweak the activation cost or size of the effect, a French Vanilla creature can only be tweaked by changing the power or toughness by increments of 1. We keep getting sizes similar to multicolor Vanilla and French Vanilla cards we've seen before such as Streetbreaker Wurm or Esper Comerants. It's easier to make a card that feels special without being broken if it has some activated ability, triggered ability, or some combination of keywords.

In the files, there was another card, Rishadan Airship, which made this card feel not so special. Another card, a 3B 2/2 Vampire with flying and lifelink, also made the Imp feel less special (at least in my opinion) and was an example of how it's easier to make cards that look good without stepping over the line if it can have multiple keywords.

So, I tried merging the vampire with the imp, which is the version of the card that we are testing now:

This follows the style of many popular multicolor cards — you get a combination of abilities from both colors that combine really well. We can't do this on all of our Bond cards because it won't feel like a core set, but the idea of a flying, bloodsucking vampire is so resonant and such a basic part of fantasy that I hope that it carries this particular card through. So far it's been liked.

We've been testing changing Mountain Bond's +2/+0 bonus to haste.

A Vulshok Berserker has always been respectable, so I expect the 4/2 version to be quite scary. It feels good to attack the opponent by surprise, and for the opponent it produces a feeling of tension.

We haven't agreed over this haste change yet, but I believe that crashing in with a high power creature gives you a visceral experience that is different from getting a creature that is undercosted by 1. It's about something that you get to do. You get to catch the opponent by surprise.

There have been arguments that haste only matters on the turn that you cast the creature, and that you don't get the bonus afterwards. Also, if you draw the Mountain too late, you don't get to benefit from haste afterwards. In terms of actual game play though, haste more than offsets not having an effect on later turns and would really help a 4/2 sneak past random 2-drop bears in the opponent's deck, or help a 6/4 outrace a tempo flyer deck.

I described how some players might bask in the feeling of getting a constant bonus through cards like Hillside Charger (the one without haste), while to other people it is like the hypothecial 1/1 that enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters; playing the unhasted Hillside Charger in your deck feels about the same as playing a Streetbreaker Wurm. The stats are good so you like it, but there's no sense of basking in a continual bonus. While haste only matters for one turn, for those players there is no sense of "before it had a keyword, but now it doesn't matter." Not all cards can please all players, but the hasted versions will give those players an exciting moment when they attack that the other Bond cards won't give them. An additional advantage is that these versions don't resemble previous multicolor cards. (Although Pouncing Kavu, an uncommon, comes close.)

The next two cards were made as a result of the difficulty of finding a White keyword for a Bond bonus:

The white keywords of vigilance, lifelink, and first strike were difficult to work with since if you push the power level of common cards with these abilities in core set Limited, they tend to strain the environment. Because of that, these creatures ended up very tame. There is discussion of giving the Green card Reach, and making the Blue one a 3U 2/4, which would make these much better, but while being useful they are not very exciting for many players.

When I proposed changing Mountain Bond's +2/+0 bonus to haste, I also had to assign another color to use a size bonus as opposed to a keyword bonus so that Green's +1/+2 bonus would not be the sole exception. Cards that form a cycle don't want a singleton exception; if it's not going to be a rule that all Bond bonuses grant a keyword as a bonus, there has to be two or more exceptions to show it's not a rule.

I proposed these variants, hoping they would inspire archetypes such as a "WG mana ramp and defense deck" or a "UW control deck."

Although I hope these are useful, they are also not exciting. Writing this article, I came up with two newer versions that do feel like you get to make something happen that is registered on a visceral level.

Another change we've been testing is having more land destruction. If a splash land can be interacted with, or if Bond can turn off and then turn on again within the same game, the effect can be perceived more as a bonus with a real condition.

This might sound radical, since land destruction is deemed unfun and we want to let players play their spells. I certainly did not want a 3-drop land destruction spell like Stone Rain. However, for the test we are trying out various land destruction spells that cost around 5, but nevertheless can still be main decked. Into the Maw of Hell is not an unfun card, and although we don't want that exact card for thematic reasons (it's not a horror set), something like it can be used to occasionally turn off Bond. Bond feels more like a real bonus when it's not automatically attained or sustained. Also, for some people (like me) the only moment Bond has any emotional content is the moment it turns on, so if a splash land is destroyed, the moment it next turns on would be dramatic. This may be too theoretical, but that's what we're trying to find out with testing.

The current test file contains Acidic Slime over the previous Bramblecrush because the Slime is more main-deckable. Some designs for a Black spell and a Red spell that destroy land was added. Finally, a creature that turns lands into Swamps was also added.

These are clunky enough that they probably won't inspire a dedicated land destruction deck, but in order to make sure they have enough good targets, the exploratory test file has some enchant land cards with repeatable effects that are intended to be powerful in Limited. We already had some cards that mess with lands in a clumsy manner in the file, such as Goblin Gardener or Vedalken Plotter, but they were just not seeing much play in playtests. We didn't want to make them more efficient because that would be harsh to normal mana development. So here is a cycle that intends to make those cards playable in the environment:

Currently, the White one is very underpowered, and probably the Green one as well. These have high costs because I wanted them to affect Limited in the late game, but perhaps some of them should cost less. Anyways, if they were brought to a level where you usually play one if you have it, I could see the existence of these cards making Vedalken Plotter a very good card, and while Goblin Gardener would still be more comical than scary, you could actually run one in your deck and players would hesitate before blocking or attacking into it. The tools that have a chance to interact with Bond would get played.

Early Magic sets have also had land-enchanting Auras such as Goblin Shrine that represent buildings on a piece of land. The uncommon Auras above also represent buildings, each representing a planeswalker's abode on a particular land. They are meant to double as a way to help an aggro-vs-control setup exist in the set. Some of these are meant to help an aggro deck keep attacking even when the control deck has started to stall the board.

During testing, one match turned into a battle over control of a land enchanted with Jace's Spy Base, with a lot of back-and-forth play revolving around the land. This is promising, but it remains to be seen how much influence this has on the environment, and how often the land destruction spells will be used to turn off Bond, in a way that's overall good.

Concern has been expressed (by Jules Robins, actually) that these Auras don't have anything to do with the lands they enchant. They work the same way regardless of what they enchant. The only land Aura we currently have that cares about what it enchants is Fertile Ground. Here's another possible set of cards that isn't in the file that might work:

I find it difficult to come up with more variations of land Auras that have some mechanical connection between what land they enchant and the effect they produce while trying to stay resonant. In the meantime, if these can't provide a certain power level, they will not have the impact that they were created for, but there's very little wriggling space to achieve that. For example, if the Dryad's Portal gave a P/T boost, it won't be a Dryad's Portal anymore. It was all I could do to give it a vigilance bonus so as to have a semblance of playability in a fatty deck that manipulates lands with Mirage effects.

Personally, I am tempted to take the flavor association of "A land-enchanting Aura is a building" and the mechanical significance of "It can be destroyed by land destruction, bounce, and enchantment destruction, so it can be given a powerful effect accordingly," and just run with it, without requiring a connection between the land and the effect.

However, Jules has suggested that a Black card with "Enchant Island" can be used as another form of Pseudo-multicolor that we can use alongside Bond in our set. He also suggested that the last one (Temple of the Blue Cult) could be the basis of a cycle.

Of course, players won't know about these land interactions when they start drafting the set. The Bond cards have to be appealing and make sense on their own. I hope cards like the haste Wurm, lifelink Vampire, or other Bond cards will be appealing enough to get players through the door. Once they do though, this land interaction could give them a deeper experience if we can balance it to a level where players can meaningfully interact with the lands that trigger the Bond ability. One thing I feel missing is that there aren't enough enablers for splashing.

Finally, I would like to conclude that my opinion is that despite all of these potential improvements, off-color landfall is a very strong contender and probably what we should have been doing.

This mechanic can be used for cards with varied abilities (not just French vanilla) and there's more room to assign appealing sizes and abilities than with a Vanilla that turns into a French vanilla. They lead to 2-color play rather than rampant 3-color. They might create less memory issues than Bond, at least for the opponent. The strongest point is that every time you play a matching land type, it makes something happen, something you can experience. The problem is that it's not strictly a returning mechanic, but rather an evolution of one. It depends on which restrictions we think are important as an experimental fan set.

The biggest problem of course is that the deadline is 2 weeks away. The land destruction/land Aura theme is very experimental so we may ditch it if it doesn't do its job, but at least the newer Bond creature variants I've mentioned above have a shot at being as good as new off-color landfall designs we can come up in 2 weeks, and they have the advantage of feeling more Core set. But I will be working with the other members to get a testable version of this up this week, and if it turns out to be insanely more fun than Bond, then the final week would be spent on an equally insane round of polishing and tuning.


  1. Great breakdown of everything Chah; this really helped me see where you're coming from on every point, and you've very clearly defined our goals and options for the home stretch. Hopefully I'll be able to find some more time to test in the next couple of weeks, and I look forward to seeing everything shake out.

    On the Enchant Lands, one more issue they're suffering from is wordiness. I mean, they don't look that bad here, but in order to interact with Vedalken Plotter and Wanderlust Giant they either need to say "Enchant Land you control" or, for likely superior gameplay "Enchanted land has" whatever the ability is. That said, all of the interactions are a lot of fun, so I've been wondering if we could capture the same thing more cleanly with Zendikon style enchantments. They're a little more complex in interaction, but probably much easier to parse.

    As for allied landfall, aside from the evolution issue I'm not even sure we can use it at common. Keeping track of whether or not a land came down for the Zendikar version is easy, and if you only have one type-fall guy on the board it's not much more difficult. But given a high as-fan we're going to end up with boards where you're pausing the game for fifteen seconds every time you drop a land to figure out what triggers and what doesn't. It might be doable with a visual indicator (like using the other color's lining along the border of the textbox), but I'm not sure that's something we want to do in a core set.

    Finally, on Mountain Bond Haste, it's not that there's terrible gameplay when Bond can't activate later on or anything like that, it's more that if you need the land on casting we're basically making Firespouts, and that's close enough to gold territory that I don't think we can justify not just printing gold cards. Obviously you can play them unbonded, and it'll often be correct to do so, but it feels bad not to get full value out of your cards and I see little reason to push that gameplay. One solution could be going back to Off-color activated abilities, but I think even more than Bond or type-fall, that implementation discourages people from playing the cards without their secondary color.

    There's a lot left to be pinned down, so I guess we'd best get started.

    1. Thanks, Jules.

      On the Mountain Bond Haste issue, I don't understand why Firespouts have to be gold cards. Just because it's close to gold territory, we're not going to print gold cards here, and this card works as a non-gold card. If we think that it's more fun with haste, we should just print it with haste. If we don't think it's fun, we shouldn't. But being close to gold or not has nothing to do with it.

      It's ok for the Bond cards to each have different properties. For example, Kird Ape has the property that it has 2 color constraints on a card with Converted mana cost 1. That's something you can only do with Bond, but not with Gold. With a Gold card, if you have a CMC 1 card, you can only have one color constraint on it. But that doesn't mean that other Bond cards like the Pterons are not worthy of being a Bond card and should be Gold just because they don't exploit that property of Bond.

      In terms of fun, we have to consider the average amount of fun these cards would provide with haste. I think it's really really fun to attack with a hasted 6/4. What are the chances of that happening? It will happen 95+% of the times (guesstimate) in a RG deck, or whatever chance it is that you will control 6 Forests and one of them is a Mountain.

      For players who like the haste attack, if we take away the haste, the card will be less fun 95% of the time, and the only benefit you get in return is that it feels slightly less bad in the 5-% of games where you are about likely losing to color screw anyways. In those games, instead of feeling very very bad, you get to feel merely very bad. I don't think the tradeoff overall is worth it.

      What you're talking about seems to me to be about safeguarding players from what is merely symbolic disappointment (do you understand what I'm trying to say by symbolic disappointment rather than actual damage?) at the cost of making the card worse overall and taking away a new line of play or new experience.

      The 4/2 haste guys represents a reckless attack strategy, and I think it's ok for this one to be more high-variance, the way a blitz attack with Trumpet Blast or Act of Treason works sometimes, doesn't work at others. (Although having 1 out of 4 of your lands be a Mountain isn't that high-variance.)

      In the Scorched Shambler version, having the option to turn it on later might symbolically feel good, but is actually not that good because your opponent can easily block it with some bear or wall at that point. The point of the 3-drop version is lost; you don't get an early 4/2 anymore. Do you prefer to fill your deck with Nether Horrors? Only if you get power 4 on turn 3, right? It's not worth it to make the card less fun in order to symbolically safeguard players from feel-bad that only happens a minority of the time.

    2. What makes bond special is that unlike gold, you can cast the creature with only one color of mana and unlike Gold, Firespout and Kicker, you can get the effect later. If we're going to keep bond, we'd be doing ourselves a huge disservice to make an execution that doesn't capitalize on that quality.

      If the +2/+0 version of Hillside Charger is just an easier Streetbreak Wurm, than the haste version is just a larger Rip-Clan Crasher. The difference is that you can upgrade your 4/4 to a 6/4 later but you can't upgrade your 6/4 to a 6/4 with haste later.

      Haste is exciting, but there's no benefit to making haste a bond ability that we can't get by just making more/bigger haste guys in general.

    3. Jay, I thought I counterargued all of that in my reply. Do you have a counterargument for my counterargument?

    4. The things you mentioned are things I specifically took account of in my counter-arguments. But I'll restate them here:

      "What makes bond special is that unlike gold, you can cast the creature with only one color of mana and unlike Gold, Firespout and Kicker, you can get the effect later. If we're going to keep bond, we'd be doing ourselves a huge disservice to make an execution that doesn't capitalize on that quality."

      Like I said, another thing that makes Bond special is that you can put more color constraints on a card than its mana cost. You can't make a Gold 1-drop with 2 color constraints, but Kird Ape, a Bond card, does that. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by not having more designs like that (like the WW 2/3 Pegasus)? We don't have to make use of every aspect of a mechanic on every card that has it.

      Look at the Soulbond guy that grants haste. Soulbond is mostly about both creatures benefiting from the bonus, but you almost never see that creature and another creature both benefit from haste. That doesn't make it a disservice to the mechanic as long as it does something good in its own way.

      "If the +2/+0 version of Hillside Charger is just an easier Streetbreak Wurm, than the haste version is just a larger Rip-Clan Crasher. The difference is that you can upgrade your 4/4 to a 6/4 later but you can't upgrade your 6/4 to a 6/4 with haste later."

      I don't get the arguments so far that only talk about feeling bad about not being able to upgrade later without trying to measure it up against the upside. By that argument, kicker cards should never be printed. You need to weigh the amount of feel-bad that is actually generated (taking into account the frequency of that happening etc.) and try to compare it to the amount of feel-good it generates and evaluate the trade-off.

      So, how much feel-bad is actually generated? This is a 6-drop we're talking about. What are the percentage of games where it won't already be turned on? And even if you didn't have a Mountain, that means you are color-screwed on your 6th turn, so you are having a bad game anyways. I claimed that making the card feel less bad when you're already having a miserable game (especially considering the low percentage of games you will be color screwed like that) is not worth making the card feel less good on the vast majority games. I'd like to hear counterarguments on this claim.

      Also, this card genuinely plays differently from a Craw Wurm because of the Red contribution. A Streetbreaker Wurm is just a better Craw Wurm, it doesn't play differently. It's not a good tradeoff.

      A comparison with Rip-Clan Crasher is just plain wrong. They are a completely different category of cards that go in different decks. I'm talking about fatty decks here. Outracing fliers, dodging Pacifisms and time-wasting strategies with Aether Adepts, the scariness of 6-power haste, etc.

    5. "Haste is exciting, but there's no benefit to making haste a bond ability that we can't get by just making more/bigger haste guys in general."

      I'd love to see more Green haste guys at common, but these haste Bond guys are things you won't get in a normal set without borrowing from both colors. Would you put haste guys with these stats in the set without the Bond ability? They require some constraint such as Bond, in order to be printed.

      These guys could also be done with multicolor. (Although they would be less flexible). That's not a reason why we can't do it here if it will be more fun to do it than not to do it.

      The problem with Bond is that it's boring - it doesn't let you "do" something. Here is a use case where the card genuinely lets you play in a way that you can't if the card wasn't borrowing from the strengths of two colors.

      With the Vampire, I talked about how it tries to be appealing by having two keyword abilities that combine well, one from each color. We can't do that with all of our Bond creatures (it wouldn't feel core), but we can with a few of them. The Bond cards don't have to all be appealing in the same way; they can hit different notes.

      This is the same. We can hit different notes with each Bond creature and make sure that as a whole, the suite of creatures have something to appeal to everyone. I don't see how the theoretical desire to be late-upgradable should be uniformly extended to even a 6-drop. The Wurm actually plays differently through a bonus from another color, rather than just being a familiar vanilla or french vanilla creature that costs 1 less. That's far more valuable for making Bond matter as a set mechanic. The set mechanic is supposed to spice things up.

    6. Having more color restraints on a card than its CMC is a neat quirk of the mechanic, but not something that drives its value, particularly not in a core set. It's fascinating to have a card that costs more colors than mana, like Kird Ape or WW Pegasus, but mainly to theorists and designers like us. For most players, it's a card with color requirements MORE difficult than traditional gold. It's a card that can't reach its full potential the first turn you could cast it. When you consider a card that you can play mono-colored and then kick at any time later into a multi-colored card, that's where you get some player appeal. Yes, both are unique qualities of bond, but only the latter drives its player appeal or warrants its inclusion in a core set.

      Lightning Mauler can give itself haste via an existing creature, come down first to give a future creature haste, or at the same time as another creature to give both haste. That seems nearly as relevant as giving a 2/2 and some other creature first strike, and more relevant than giving two creatures Pro:Zombies. I absolutely agree that not every execution of a mechanic needs to work the same, but they can't ignore the mechanics main draw. You don't see 1/4 first strikers and you won't see any more 1/1 tramplers for that reason. Lightning Mauler doesn't do everything soulbond does every time, but it does most of it as often as any do and sometimes it does do all of it.


      Should every card in every set follow the principle of making most games feel better rather than making bad games feel less bad? Every set clearly needs cards from both categories. That said, I reject your assertion that +2/+0 is the version that makes you feel less bad when you're having a miserable game while haste feels better in the vast majority of games. Haste can help you close a game you're winning and sometimes turn around a game you're losing. +2/+0 can do the same (and in similar frequency).

      A comparison with Rip-Clan Crasher exactly as printed isn't helpful, yes. That's why I specified a bigger Rip-Clan Crasher: Imagine a 3RG 4/4 haste creature. That's perfectly printable, right? That card compares to your Hillside Charger in exactly the same way Streetbreaker Wurm compares to mine. That's not an argument against your version, it's a refutation of your argument against mine.

    7. I quite like your argument that we can use bond to make a big hastey creature in green and black that we couldn't make without gold otherwise. You're right about that and it's enough reason to consider the option.

      I agree that a six-mana bond-haste creature will be 'on' the majority of the time (though I'm less confident about the four-mana one) and that playing it without haste will only feel a sting once. It doesn't capitalize on bond's best trait nor its second best (see above) and it forces* us to make other concessions that lead to a +0/+3 bonus for white. I don't see any way around the first disadvantage so if we go this route, we'll just have to suck up that loss in exchange for the more unique gameplay. I'm *deeply* against the +0/+3 bonus for reasons already stated, but mountain=haste does not require plains=+0/+3.

      1. One option (*) is to ignore the no-singular-exceptions-to-a-cycle guideline. It's a sensible guideline but it operates on a level most players will never notice. Its primary purpose is to ensure that players don't miss that the different fifth card is part of the cycle. That mistake is impossible for this particular cycle thanks to the ability word that explicitly calls it out. Its secondary purpose is aesthetic, making the cycle feel connected. We would lose that if we only make the mountain=haste change, and that would be another loss in the name of big-nonred-hastey-creatures. Does that tip the scale against? I sure as hell don't know.

      2. Another option is to look for another color to give a P/T adjustment to. We could move +2/+0 from mountains to swamps, which is unreasonable neither to the color pie nor the bond configuration. We'd then have two dumb red bond creatures which is kind of neat. But, as soon as I think of swamps giving +2/+0, I immediately prefer +X/-X since it's so similar and more black. The trouble with that, at least on your own creatures, is that it's not all upside, which means it would be worse than all the other bond creatures.

      2a. +X/-X would be better with intimidate in the mix. Consider "Swamp Bond — As long as you control a Swamp, ~ gets +1/-1 and has intimidate." That breaks the only-one-ability-per-bond guideline we've been sticking to, but might be worth it. In fact, we don't even have to change Dark Cove Pirates or Minotaur Cultists' P/T for that change to be immediately awesome. (Though we may need to change the cost to accomodate. Also, a 2/3 minotaur that becomes a 3/2 intimidator would be pretty sweet.)

      2b. Follow the Mistral Vampire example, leave Swamp bond as, say, +2/-2 and give the resulting creatures other evasion abilities. The blue one could be 1/3 flying for 2U or 0/4 unblockable if you want to get freaky. The red one could be 2/3 intimidate (for 3R+) or 1/3 first strike (again, freaky).

    8. If we do go with mountain bond granting haste, I like the 6/4 4GG guy (but he replaces Tyrranax). For black, 4cc is too low, so I'd suggest 4B 4/3. The Thieves would then either stay at 5B (in which case their p/t would feel samey) or drop to 3B 2/2, which actually appeals to me quite a bit.

      What are other people's thoughts on making mountain bond grant haste? I think it could work and would add a little more interest to the set than +2/+0, but it does have multiple small costs.

    9. Jay, what do you think about the "gain 1 life when tapped" guys I proposed?

      We should have cards that produce a feeling when played rather than just a dry strategic 1 mana cost reduction.
      I feel that the life gain mana producer and the life gain flyer would feel good to play, feel fitting of their color combinations, and define their own archetypes.

      We would still have enough "merely efficient/better than their cost" creatures like the 4-drop 4/4 Elephant or the 2-drop 2/2 Pterons for players who want that.

      The "Gain 1 when tapped" guys are not granting a keyword, so we won't be breaking the Rule of Four. We would be breaking a rule of 3-1-1 if there is such a thing, but I'd rather do that for the sake of the game play that we get. With that configuration, each of the cards would be likable and unique.

      As for the Black 4/2, I think it's ok if the cards aren't all equally risk-free. In a 17-land deck with 8 Mountains, the chance that none of your first 4 lands is a Mountain is 8.8%. In my mind, the 4/2 haste would be enjoyed by the same kind of people who like to use dangerous but high-variance cards like Fling or Act of Treason, so a 91.2% chance is more than high enough for me.

      A 5-drop version would also be strong, but it would become much more similar to the Wurm. A 4/2 feels like it's using haste to catch the opponent off guard while the opponent's power 2 blockers are tapped; a 4/3 can be stopped by fewer things and uses haste in a way similar to the Wurm, rather than as a way to sneak past defense.

      I would rather keep the cards feeling different and leave it up to the player to select his/her weapon of choice. It's like in a FPS game where you can select an accurate rifle, a weak but fast reloading handgun, or an inaccurate but high-potential rocket launcher.

      If Bond is like a "riskless form of multicolor" then we've been emphasizing the "riskless" part of that statement too much. Just because it's riskless to play doesn't mean there's motivation or appeal in playing that creature in the first place. I feel the second half of the sentence is the main content. We want creatures that combine traits from both colors to play differently.

    10. "Gain 1 life when tapped" is wordier and less awesome than lifelink. I would never use that ability over lifelink here. But, in the same way that haste is more different to play with than +2/+0, vigilance is more different to play with than lifelink (or similar)... which is why we chose vigilance for plains bond and why I think we should stick with it.

      You really have to stop using the costs-1-less argument. Everything bond is doing could be done without bond at one higher cost on a gold card. That's just what the mechanic is. Focusing on the bleed is what allows us to distract the player from that fact. The same way bond makes haste a neat ability for red to lend to green and black, it makes vigilance a neat ability for white to lend to green and blue.

      The black 4/2 bond-haste for 4 wouldn't be a terrible thing to print. Adding risk to a BR card is very rarely wrong.

    11. Jay, I keep hearing "that's what the mechanic is" and I disagree. I'm sure that the search for how to position a mechanic is a huge part of set design.

      About the cards I designed - The "gain 1 life" Drake is no wordier than Augury Owl or Duskhunter Bat. Look at the text boxes of those cards. Imagine if you were a beginner and can't skip over the reminder text, then look at the Tree and the Drake. The cards are actually simpler for beginners.

      The vigilance cards have been unpopular so far, and I don't think vigilance is a good option at all. It transforms your creature the least and often ends up being a win-more mechanic. I think lifelink and first strike are better options, but I really like the "gain 1 life" cards, not as a compromise to make things fit, but because of the way I expect they would feel to play, the archetypes they would support, the way they combine their colors' strengths which is what makes multicolor cards popular.

      I think it's a serious problem if players think the set mechanic cards are boring, or if the set mechanic only produces cards we've seen before, so I don't understand why you think I should stop discussing it.

    12. "Gain 1 life when tapped" is incredibly marginal. Not only do you gain less life than you would have with lifelink, you only get that 1 life when you attack. Who could be excited about that? It doesn't change gameplay at all.

      Have the vigilance cards been unpopular? I hadn't heard that. It doesn't surprise me because they're so small that they wouldn't be exciting with first strike or lifelink either. They need to be bigger to make any of those abilities relevant.

      For every reckless player who needs haste, there's a cautious player who needs vigilance. Don't want to attack because you'll leave yourself vulnerable? Vigilance lets you do both. I'm not married to vigilance over first strike, but we tried first strike and it had issues.

      All of the abilities were currently have are primary in the gifting color and secondary or tertiary in the receiving color and I think that's important to making bond feel right in the core set. Black couldn't normally have a 3/1 flyer for 3, but it does get flying. With blue's help, it gets an efficient flyer. Green and black don't normally get haste at common, but with red's help they can. Blue and green don't often get vigilance by themselves, but with white's help, they can.

      Blue and green never get first strike or lifelink by themselves, so white granting them that feels more like a bleed.

    13. We should absolutely discuss which implementations of bond are interesting and exciting and good for gameplay. Never stop talking about those. I only ask that you stop using "it just costs one less" as an argument because that is fundamentally true of every bond effect possible.

    14. Jay, you just focused on the part where I said "it just costs one less" whenever I said "it doesn't play differently except that it costs one less." The "it doesn't play differently" part is what matters. Let's keep searching for ones where it does.

      Vigilance is extremely unpopular, based on the fact that I haven't seen anyone play a single copy of these cards.

      I don't think it has to be about getting a tertiary ability for the color, it could be about getting a purely foreign ability from another color. If we were willing to consider first strike before and it's just a power level issue, we shouldn't add that as another rule here.

      First strike can make a creature survive a fight it can't survive without it. Lifelink doubles the life swing of an unblocked creature. Vigilance doesn't do that. It requires the creature to be bigger than the opponent's creature on its own.

      Gaining 1 life on a flyer absolutely matters. It feels good every time you attack, to get a reward for something you want to do.

      It changes game play a lot because it allows the slow deck to have a comeback. With sets nowadays it's not possible to shut out every avenue of offense by the aggro deck. Playing control decks in various limited formats, I've found gaining life here and there is very important for these decks. Remember the match that we had with Druid's Satchel?

    15. I can understand trying to make a card that makes players feel safe. I'm not a fan of changing the 2/4 size of the intimidate Pirates, though.

  2. Hello :) I've only glanced at a few posts on this blog up to this point, but I followed the link here from Jules's Twitter. So, if you don't mind the input from an outsider:

    Bond seems like it works for a core set okay, and I wouldn't dump it in the last stretch. I would choose a single ability word, though, rather than having "Island Bond," "Forest Bond," and so on. As long as each land type grants its same bonus each time, it should be fine. I recommend "adapt," "explore," or "accord."

    Also, I hope a set with this mechanic has a Dream Thrush and/or a Mystic Compass.

    I do not like bond cards with no colorless mana in their costs. It just feels bad. You either have to, in the case of the example card, play the Island later or the creature later, and both feel wrong. The card still may be just fine for Limited, but that doesn't mean it isn't awkward.

    I also don't like the land cycle.
    1. Too much text for so little effect.
    2. Even with all the text, there are no mana abilities visible.
    3. They are awkward in that there are ten allied-color lands.
    4. The template is wrong for half of them. (I know that's supposed to help with Point 3, but I don't think that's the right fix.)

    I don't think a mechanic as simple and light as bond requires such a brute-force fix, especially not one going so far as to replace basics with these in packs. I could see this as a five-card uncommon cycle going one direction around the color wheel. Or perhaps letting you search up a basic of either allied color. For example:

    Irrigated Field
    Land (C)
    T: Add W to your mana pool.
    T, Sacrifice Irrigated Field: Search your library for a Forest or Island card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library. Activate this ability only if you control two or more Plains.

    This has the upside over a Panorama of tapping for a colored mana and of not requiring mana to activate, but it has the downside of entering tapped and requiring Plains to search for other colors. Compared to the original designs presented, it doesn't use counters and doesn't require a ten-card cycle. Any design using counters on lands or basic land types on nonbasic lands, I'd recommend putting at uncommon or rare.

    Hm. It wants me to split up my post, so consider this Part 1.

    1. And Part 2:

      I really like the land Auras. Chandra's is a bit awkward, though, and the black one is my favorite favorite favorite. It's not a great card, but it just seems so perfect. I think I love it actually. I want to see a new player's face light up after he Doom Blades his opponent's creature and gets to make a Skeleton out of it during his upkeep.

      My first instinct is to want to add a blurb about turning the enchanted land into another land type to make it work with bond, but that just seems super-awkward in terms of nongreen mana fixing and things making sense flavorfully. I only mention it in case it inspires an idea for someone else.

      Do you think a Cocoon land Aura would work? Something like: Enchanted land has "T, Tap an untapped creature you control: Put a +1/+1 counter on that creature." It could be uncommon and cost as little as G or 1G.

      I don't care for the second cycle of land Auras. They seem much more awkward than the first.

      Finally, as much as I like Pirate Brigade and Spying Imp, I have to vote against typed landfall. Wizards tried it for Worldwake and scrapped it, so I doubt it'd follow through for a core set. Especially when one color of card could have two different landfall types and do a different thing for each card. Also, I think it's awkward to have both it and bond in the same set–not on-theme as it may seem.

      Also, I think several of those landfall cards are a bit too powerful. Having a repeatable Threaten is crazy, lifelinking beefy creatures at common seems wrong, and playing against a mostly blue deck with Moonlight Harpist would be one of the most awful Limited experiences I can imagine (and it's common).

      Phew, I went on a bit longer than I thought. I hope I made some sense!

    2. Thanks for the input!

      About the ability word - I think it's important that it states the land type upfront, like Forestwalk or Protection from Black.

      Also, it seems that many players don't realize that the bonus for each land type are the same across different cards.

      We do have a Dream Thrush-like creature (it might be a flyer or it might not) but we don't want it to work at instant speed, so we have another variant instead.

      Kird Ape and Wild Nacatl are bond card with no colorless mana in its costs, and they seem to be very popular.

      It's a pity the changing land cycle ended up so wordy. The first iteration was like "If you control 3 or more Swamps, this is an Island." but that would be difficult to track, hence the activation cost (Tap) to create a clear moment of change and the counter for tracking. There might be a better execution somehow.

      The Irrigated Field looks good.
      I like counters better because they don't require shuffling, but a lands with counters might get fiddly.

  3. This might be a stupid question, especially two weeks before the deadline, but have you considered making bond depend on having TWO lands? That's more complicated, but it has the advantages that:

    * It's less all-or-nothing, since, you're more likely to find your second plains several turns down the line
    * It makes it pretty obvious to play a two-colour deck, not splash for a bond creature.
    * Since both of those make it harder to trigger, it can have a bit more of a bonus (perhaps get +1/+1 with a keyword?). I'm not sure, but to me the problem Chah is describing with "feel good" may just be that a bonus you wouldn't normally get at that CMC feels like a bonus, but even if Pterodon is basically better than Esper Cormorants, it doesn't feel like you're getting away with something, it feels like you're eking out incremental advantage by juggling small differences in casting costs, which is more spike than timmy.

    (I agree offcolour landfall would be a good idea, but likely impractical in time.)

    1. I think it would be cool to have a few uncommons work that way. I've been personally thinking of something like "If you control a Plains, this has first strike. If you control 2 Plains, this has double strike."

    2. Fascinating that Jack proposed this because I had the same idea while reading the article. Here's my take:

      What if we leave bond as-is at common, but upgrade it at higher rarities?

      It can be cumulative:
      (unc) Island Bond — As long as you control an Island, ~ has flying. As long as you control two or more Islands, ~ gets +2/+2.
      (rare) Island Bond — As long as you control an Island, ~ has flying. As long as you control two or more Islands, ~ gets +2/+2. As long as you control three or more Islands, ~ has "Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, draw a card."

      Or strictly higher thresholds:
      (unc) Mountain Bond — As long as you control two Mountains, ~ gets +2/+0 and has first strike.
      (rare) Mountain Bond — As long as you control three Mountains, ~ gets +2/+0 and has first strike, trample and haste.

      The first set seems way too wordy, but the second set could be interesting. I wouldn't want 10 more bond cards at uncommon and at rare, but maybe 5 more between the colors?

  4. Bond mechanic seems much better than specific landfall. Zendikar Landfall triggers were so awesome because you could topdeck a land and trigger each of your creatures at the same time. With specific landfall, your topdecked island will trigger one of your dudes and not the other. Or, more likely, your islands trigger none of your dudes because they are all blue and don't like islands. Still, great post, and I'll eat whatever mechanic you feed me because I'm a Magic player and new things are always exciting.

    1. Landfall is nice because you can offer bigger rewards for it triggering (since it'll be once every 4-5 turns rather than all the time) and because there's excitement in not know when you'll draw the land that triggers the effect, but it suffers from the problems folks have already pointed out.

      It also makes three-color decks much harder to play than bond does (you can't build a WuB deck and splash an Island for your white and black Islandfall creatures). I guess you can still make wUb deck that splashes for those same creatures (but not blue plainsfall or swampfall creatures).

      It's not clear how badly off-color landfall suffers from the same problem as off-color land-counting cards do. A blue creature with swamp bond whose P/T scales with the number of islands you control asks you to play a few swamps and a bunch of islands, which is pretty specific. A black creature with islandfall does the same, but not as urgently. While I opposed the first, I wasn't thinking the second was so bad, but it sounds like Greg does.

  5. Have you reconsidered the OCA plan? That was my favorite. The others just don't feel Core Set to me.

    1. I really like OCA because they can have flavor, they can give late-game effects to aggro decks, and they can have good P/T stats.

      I didn't support it because it looked so blatantly multicolor with another mana symbol on it. But maybe it wasn't a big deal.

      If we were to do this over, I would vote for off-color landfall as the first thing to examine and OCA as second. (Or just examine all of them, of course)

      Maybe OCA should still be a contender, just as much as off-color landfall.

      The Bond cards have been tweaked to a point where some of them are starting to feel extremely right. Maybe I'm biased from seeing them for a long time, but with the 3W 3/2 Elephant that gets +1/+2 with a Forest, or the 3U 2/4 Pirates that get intimidate with Swamp, those cards feel like they are perfect at that size and cost (and they also define their color pair's style really well).

      I feel that because the OCA cards have extra nobs to twiddle and that makes them a better choice if this were at the beginning of the project because we would have more space to design in, but it's going to be hard to boil them down to feeling just right with the amount of time we have. Especially if we were to make repeat-activateable cards or cards with big Invoker-style effects.

    2. The more time you've put into any idea, the more invested you get, and the harder it is to let go of something that's not working. That's why writers are frequently advised to "kill their darlings". And that's also why writers have editors.

      Anyway, you guys already know what I think about Bond on core set commons.

  6. There's a lot going on in this article, but I'm only going to tackle the big issue:


    Simpler = More Fun

    1. I don't think straight multicolor will be a good idea because it will lead to playing heavy 3-color decks. (Because a 2-color deck won't have enough cards to pick from.)

      Also, multicolor is a splashy theme to be conserved, and we shouldn't do straightup multicolor in a set leading up to Ravnica.

      I feel that all we need is some good splash enablers (hopefully, some kind of "splash-only" enablers and not 3-color Alara deck enablers) and then Bond will start feeling like a real bonus with a real condition attached, not "multicolor with extra text."

      That said, I really wonder what they are going to do in the real M13, with Nicol Bolas revealed. Did they find a good way to do multicolor at common?

  7. I think basic landcycling would be a bad choice as a Core Set returning mechanic. The reason is simply that it offers new players an option they don't want to take. I remember when teaching one player Magic, her first or second game she got stuck on 3 mana and the game went badly. She commented afterwards about a Chartooth Cougar that had been in her hand, "Why would I want to give up a useful creature just to get a land?" Some players may instantly get that, but a lot of players won't; and while that's fine in an expansion-set mechanic, I think a Core Set mechanic needs a higher bar for approachability to new players.

    The Forest-Plains, Plains-Forest cycle of lands seem very clunky and confusing to me. They're also strictly better than basic lands, the avoidance of which is a pretty solid guideline at all times but most especially in a Core Set.

    Also, Vedalken Plotter doesn't interact with the land enchantments unless they have "Enchant land you control" (which two of them do) or grant an ability to the land itself (which one of them does).

    All of which is to say that while those ideas seem bad for those reasons, by contrast I think off-colour landfall is an excellent idea that seems like it'll lead to very interesting games.

    1. I'm not sure Chah was proposing cycling or landcycling, just using them for illustration.

      I've never been a fan of these threshold lands. They're too clunky for what they do. If we needed this effect (and we wouldn't have replaced the uncommon duals with the Rav duals if we thought we did), making a cycle out of Nimbus Maze would give us fixing that enables splashes in a more elegant (though still wordy) way.

    2. Right, I was just using them as an example of a mechanic that isn't exciting in and of itself, but is still valuable for background support of a theme.

      I do think we need some kind of support for splashing, because in tests I didn't feel comfortable splashing just to turn on Bond with many sealed pools.

  8. Thanks, Chah, for another thorough and thought-provoking article. Good stuff, as always.

    A number of cards and ideas in your test set have proved somewhere between neat and awesome. As much as I love Vaportrail Imp, Mistral Vampire is even cooler and also frees up the slot Sengir Confessor has been taking. I also think making land disruption/destruction more relevant (while preventing mana denial strategies) has to make the set better.

    There are also ideas I'm not fond of, like making plains bond grant +0/+3 because it's too similar to forest bond's +1/+2 and while certainly functional, much less exciting than vigilance or +2/+0. There are also some specific executions I don't care for even while I like the motivation behind them.

    I quite like the insight that adding land destruction/manipulation effects to the set isn't enough to have them be used against bond because people won't be playing them just for that. Making them relevant by making lands more relevant is brilliant. That said, I dislike most of the land auras for all the reasons Jules stated. I like Fertile Ground and Jace's Spy Base because they feel like land auras that would be printed in a set that wasn't trying to force lands to matter more. Let's see if we can't find more cards like them.

    Another way to make lands matter more are to make lands that matter more. ETB-effects like Teetering Peeks don't help because there's no reason to kill those once they land, but cards with activated abilities like Leechridden Swamp, triggered abilities like Valakut, or manlands do. We should strongly consider one of those cycles.

    1. What about activated ability lands?
      We could reprint the Leechridden Swamp cycle. Not sure that was exciting enough though.

      Maybe take a page from Rise of the Eldrazi?
      Frostwind Island
      Land - Island
      ~ ETB tapped.
      (T: Add U.)
      8, T: Creatures you control gain flying until EOT.

      Wildheart Forest
      Land - Forest
      ~ ETB tapped.
      (T: Add G.)
      8, T: Target creature gets +5/+5 and gains trample until end of turn.

      etc. It helps that these lands don't need to directly play into bond (or landfall) or even multicolor in order to aid the overall lands-matter theme.

    2. Tried making some ally-color manlands but they sucked. The tenth edition cycle wouldn't be a solid reprint.

      We can also consider threshold/trigger lands like Valakut and Emeria. I tried to make an example but it sucked too. I've got a cold which is impeding my skills, but I also suspect it's just a hard problem.

    3. I love the shadowmoor cycle, but I agree that they're not splashy enough.On the other hand, Invoker-lands sounds like a very good idea, and a solid successor for the -Mage cycle and/or the same-color landfall cycle.

      I expect that they'll be cleaner and more open to good designs than a Valakut/Emeria-esque setup, and reward late lands without punishing early gameplay more than Landfall.

      I suspect (though I'm not positive) that going with the Legions costs rather than the Rise ones will be be better (7C: rather than 8:). Then again, it's for eight+ mana, and you're already putting the land into your deck... maybe you shouldn't need a second island in addition to your first (and eight other lands) in order to give your green fat flying.

      I *think* we'd want to stay away from Bloodrite/Flamewave? But the recent nonbasics in T2 would convincingly say that a land that is your sole win condition isn't a problem if it's not too oppressive. (Drownyard/Bloodhall/Nexus vs. Valakut.)

    4. Invoker lands are awesome! That's exactly what aggro needs to be strong in the very late game.

    5. I like the idea of invoker lands, but since you're trying to make two-colour bond matter, why not make the costs {4}{U}{U}{W}{W}?

    6. It's an interesting idea (though 6WU seems more likely than 4UUWW). Such a land couldn't produce just one color, so they'd either have to be colorless (which will hurt the basic land count and general splashability) or dual lands, which would replace the rav duals at rare now.

    7. We could make a blue land with an ability that costs 6WB (or 5WUB) but that would force (rather than enable) three color play, which is something we want to avoid.

      We coudl also make a blue land with a white ability (7W) and a black ability (7B). That would work in WU, WB, wUb or WuB decks. Too wonky?

    8. I'd rather keep the activation cost colorless or monocolor so that the basic land types would be tenable. That would allow all both of our nonbasic land cycles to be playable on their own while supporting Bond. I just don't think 6WU, 4WUB, or 4UUWW are the way to go for this set (though in another world, they might be the right choice).

    9. I like Invoker Shadowmoor Mashup Lands a Lot. I like them as Rares so they can be super splashy, but also to retain the Uncommon Duals since I feel they’re important to what Bond does.

      I realized that there should be little reason that a player would need more than one of any of these in play at a time, which led me to think that they would be ideal splashes for our Bond Decks. So when I designed the abilities, I really tried to think in terms of “what would this color’s allies really like this land to do? Not all the numbers are set, because I didn’t want to pull focus from the overall ideas.

      Migration Plains (RARE)
      Land — Plains,
      (T: Add W to your mana pool.)
      Migration Plains enters the battlefield tapped.
      8: Put N 1/1 white Bird creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.

      Cauldwind Island (RARE)
      Land — Island
      (T: Add U to your mana pool.)
      Cauldwind Island enters the battlefield tapped.
      8: Target creature gets +N/+N and gains hexproof until end of turn.

      Sinkwretch Swamp (RARE)
      Land — Swamp
      (T: Add B to your mana pool.)
      Sinkwretch Swamp enters the battlefield tapped.
      8: Creatures target player controls get -N/-N until end of turn.

      Boltclawed Mountain (RARE)
      Land — Mountain
      (T: Add R to your mana pool.)
      Boltclawed Mountain enters the battlefield tapped.
      8: Boltclawed Mountain deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

      Churning Forest (RARE)
      Land — Forest
      (T: Add G to your mana pool.)
      Churning Forest enters the battlefield tapped.
      8: Put a N/N green TYPE creature token onto the battlefield.

    10. PS - There is really no difference between acivation costs of 8 or 7C on these, since each of them will be getting tapped to provide their abilities once they can go off. We're not woried about mulitple activations, right?

    11. Clarification: "The tenth edition cycle wouldn't be a solid reprint." should have been "The tenth edition cycle would be a solid reprint."

    12. Nich, the 8 vs 7C discussion is relevant if the land has a tap ability. I was thinking the land would tap to use its invoker ability, but that's entirely up for discussion.

      If we don't go with all existing Invoker abilities, many of your ideas have merit, provided N is low enough. For power level, our best comparison is Urza's Factory. It's colorless and doesn't sport a basic land type, but it doesn't ETB tapped either, so it's not much worse up front. For 7T, we get a 2/2 with no abilities (except it combos with Mishra's Factory and Assembly Worker). This card was quite solid in Limited and even saw a good bit of Constructed play, so we really don't need to make a better land, much less five of them.

      Producing one 1/1 white Bird is fairly comparable to a 2/2. Two birds isn't insane, but it's definitely better. I wouldn't want to play against that.

      I'm not sure why the blue land would grant a P/T boost. The ability to counter any spell targeting your creatures at any time with no card cost seems strong enough.

      The black one could give the opposing team -1/-1, reasonably. That would ruin some decks and barely touch others. -2/-2 seems like too much to be able to do as often as you want.

      Free Lightning Bolts from the red one is certainly exciting. I wonder how often it'll just be a 'bad' Lava Axe to finish your opponent off.

      The green one should make a 2/2 wolf or bear. We could push it to 3/3, but that's very very strong. How many decks can beat a player making a new elephant every turn (at the cost of zero cards) while they're just top-decking?

      Another option is to avoid the repeatable effects and make bigger one-time effects (8T, Sacrifice ~)*. The opponent still has the incentive to kill or steal them before you can use them, and they can still turn a game around without creating interminable grinding.

      *The way I was originally going to word that got me thinking of another option. What if you had to sacrifice *any* land to activate the ability (7CT, Sacrifice a land)? You'd get to nine mana, use the ability and then lose the ability to do it again... until you draw another land. Interesting. Landshapers, kind of.

    13. If we play our cards right, this could be a rare cycle that sells the set to the degree that Mythic Rare Titans did for M11. Plus, they go off at 8, not 6. Which is a positive change for the Metagame.

      I wouldn’t compare these to Mishra’s Factory anymore than I’d compare Grizzly Bears and Fauna Shaman. In other words, they can be clearly better than Mishra’s Factory and not be too good to print. As far as implementing them, I would say repeatable effects are a must. The difference between “8, T:” and “8:” is so slight that I’d suggest the one that looks sexier (8:). The idea that a T symbol would give these the “shields down” moment doesn’t really happen. If you are threatening any of these you’re not going to mistap your lands. On the other hand, making the costs 7C is a good way to demonstrate to players that they want to tap the land itself to help pay for the effect each time they use it. If we had time I’d suggest rigorous playtesting to make them as good as possible. So that players open them and can’t believe WotC would print them. “They’ve gotta be broken! I can’t wait to make a deck with them,” would be music to my ears.

    14. Landshapers are an interesting idea, but I really can't help but keep my support behind keeping them as simple as possible. The basic land type means they play with rather than opposed to Bond, and means that they get slightly better in older formats, where you can one-of them with fetches.

      With the Ravnica rare cycle, we have a set of lands that players will want(^3) no matter what. I suggest keeping them as clean as possible and power-leveled for Uncommon, so that they can affect Limited play and so that we have two cycles in different rarities.

      I support the Urza's Factory benchmark, because lands with abilities are strong inherently (and often definitely underestimated).

    15. Can I ask what the value is in making this cycle Uncommon? lands with giant late game effects shouldn't belong in Uncommon. If they were put there, the effects would have to be so tame that you end up squandering a great opportunity. Why do these want to show up in limited, or do more than sell packs?

    16. Having lands worth killing in Limited, makes land disruption/destruction worthwhile, which increases interactivity with bond.

  9. Friendly Island
    Land - Island
    ~ ETB tapped.
    (T: Add U.)
    T: Target land becomes a Plains or a Swamp until EOT. Activate this ability only when you could activated a sorcery.

  10. Am I missing something when I think Mistwing Steed looks like a mistake? Does it really get double flying, or is that intended to be another keyword?

    1. It's a mistake. It was not supposed to have flying until you control an Island.

  11. The allied land solution is simple. Non-basics that have one land type that tap for the color of their ally. Ideally, 5 - one for each pair.

    Pine Pitch Peaks
    Land - R
    T: add R to your mana pool.

    Lava Ridge
    Land - R
    T: Add B to your mana pool

    Pirate's Alcove
    Land - R
    T: Add U to your mana pool

    Oasis Roost
    Land - R
    T: add W to your mana pool

    Sun Swept Clearing
    Land - R
    T: add G to your mana pool

    Supplement that with a Terramorphic Upgrade
    Fresh Tilled Field
    Land - U
    T: Search your library for a land that shares a type with a basic land you control and put it otb tapped. Then shuffle.

    1. These can't work the way you want them to. The rules state that Basic Land types come built in with the corresponding mana ability. Under the rules, Pine Pitch Peaks would have T: Add R or G to your mana pool. You've made the original dual lands with only one land type each.

    2. We had uncommon dual tap lands in the set for a long time, but replaced them with the (allied) Ravnica duals:

      Land - Forest Plains
      ~ ETB tapped.
      (T: Add G or W.)

    3. @Nich

      That was my intention. They do play differently with fetch / search effects.

  12. Since people were having a hard time remembering each color's bond effect, I thought of another way we can add Bond effects to common for As-Fan without over using too many of our creature slots. As a bonus, each card teaches you two effects!

    Plains Ascendance
    Target creature you control gains first strike until end of turn. (Reminder text.)
    Target creature an opponent controls loses intimidate until end of turn.

    Island Ascendance
    Target creature you control gains flying until end of turn.
    Target creature an opponent controls gets -2/-0 until end of turn.

    Swamp Ascendance
    Target creature you control gains intimidate until end of turn. (Reminder text.)
    Target creature an opponent controls gets -1/-2 until end of turn.

    Mountain Ascendance
    Target creature you control gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
    Target creature an opponent controls loses first strike until end of turn.

    Forest Ascendance
    Target creature you control gets +1/+2 until end of turn.
    Target creature an opponent controls loses flying until end of turn.

    Isn't it interesting how each effect also fits with something one of its enemies could take away?