Monday, May 7, 2012

M13 Trajectories: Heat-Shimmer Djinn

Welcome to M13 Trajectories, where I discuss how cards from our fan M13 set changed over the course of design through the involvement of multiple people. Today's card started out as the card Heat Shimmer. The card was submitted as a reprint for our Red "copying" spell slot.

Seeing this spell, I felt that while it was a "copying" spell in a hyper-literal sense, it didn't show how Red, like Blue, occasionally gets to mess with instants and sorceries. Red's ability to Fork spells is something that deserves to be reflected in a core set.

It's interesting how there are many basic, core effects of the game that can't exist at common but are core effects nonetheless. Cards like Day of Judgment, Diabolic Tutor, Mind Control, Honor of the Pure, Rise from the Grave, Pyroclasm, Redirect & Reverberate, Fireball, Clone, and Prodigal Pyromancer seem like very core effects of Magic that should exist somewhere.

But the Heat Shimmer effect is fun too, so in order to keep this effect while making room for a spell-copying spell, I proposed putting Heat Shimmer on a creature. It became this:

When it enters the battlefield, it creates a copy of itself for a free hasted body. Then it does the same for every creature you cast afterwards. It has interactions with various enter-the-battlefield triggers and death triggers.

I've found that changing the card type of an effect is a very potent way of designing cards, which is a topic worthy of a post of its own.

Some of the concerns voiced about this card was:
  • It's too wordy and complicated for a core set card.
  • It resembles Minion Reflector.
These may be true, but so far we've kept the card in the set since it's one of the most fun cards we have.

CommanderGreven pointed out that this card will kill your own Legends, so the triggered effect was changed to a "may" ability. Now you can kill you Kokusho if you want to, while keeping Kiki-Jiki around.

I hope you enjoyed this. Join me next Friday, when I talk about some land designs that didn't make it into the set.


  1. Heat-Shimmer Djinn is easily one of my favorite [mythic] rares from the set. It's a lot of fun. I do have concerns that it might be too strong from the one sealed event I had it, particularly when copying creatures with ETB effects.

    Using 'exile' in place of 'sacrifice' limits its power slightly, but may not be worth the unexpected wording, so we may just add a mana to the cost and swap 'exile' for 'sacrifice' for balance and clarity.

  2. The Djinn is one of my favorites as well, and in an effort to keep the power where the fun is I don't want to nerf it unless it's actually broken. Some Titan level format warping would be okay in my book. I mean, how can you pass up the opportunity for the most fun parts of both Kiki-Jiki and Urabrask without most of the unfun gameplay of either?

    1. I think you're probably right. The card is ridiculous, and the time Jay blew me out with it in Limited was just *bonkers*, but mythics can do that; and I expect it to be slightly less (though incredibly differently) played than Inferno Titan.

    2. For posterity's sake, Red has both a mythic reusable Heat Shimmer and a mythic reusable Fork.

  3. It seems potentially confusing (and strong) if you get the effect twice on the turn you play this. But I guess that's what you meant by it being ok for mythics to be very good.

    1. Realizing I could cast this and another creature in the same turn and get *three* free creatures was exciting for me as a player because it made me feel clever, but worrisome for me as a designer because it's so strong.

      While you could play Djinn and Cadaver Imp for 8 mana, get six points of hastey power and three Raise Deads (which are extra good with the Djinn in play), a less magical scenario is casting Djinn and Goblin Arsonist for 6 mana. You still get six points of hastey power, but no card advantage. Frustratingly, you don't even get the Arsonist's 'dies' trigger because the tokens are exiled rather than sacrificed.

      That's what makes me want to swap 'exile' for 'sacrifice' and then nerf the Djinn in one of the following ways:
      - Increase the cost to 4RR (making it harder to get three tokens in one turn).
      - Exclude the Djinn from his own copying ability (preventing a token Djinn from making extra tokens, while reducing the length of the rules text).
      - Or just making the Djinn smaller (making its haste less painful and making the card less resilient).

      I quite prefer the second option, but it's totally up for discussion.

    2. Yeah. I'm not sure if it is too strong (I'm not an experienced developer), but it tickles my "may be broken somehow" trigger. I imagine the strongest play would be if you can set up a big creature in advance (greater gargadon, or simply a flicker effect on a creature you already have in play). That would produce a lot of hasty power. But then, in a constructed format, if you have a couple of 4/4s in play unanswers, you're probably winning anyway.

      Changing "or another creature" to "another creature" tears me in half -- I love the johnny potential, but I bet that after it were seriously playtested, it would end up without it. But I don't know for sure.

  4. Is it under-costed? Only slightly harder to cast than Zealous Conscripts and it has a repeatable effect on the board. I would think it should either be a 3/3 or cost 4RR or 5R, in which case it could actually be bigger. On the other hand, it's mythic. Maybe it should stay as is and just be legendary? I think it's almost always better than Urabrask even with just one on the board, and multiple copies of Urabrask would do nothing even if it wasn't legendary, whereas subsequent copies of this are better and better.