Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CCDD 082212—Electric Pulse

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/22/2012 - Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I was dealing with a lot of last-minute preparations for GenCon, the event itself, and the ordeal of getting home. (US Airways screwed me big time coming and going—It was brutal. But I'm tired of telling that story.)

For whatever reason I was thinking about the way that lords have become strictly good for their controller and how that trend has been migrating to other cards that would have been symmetrical years ago. It made me think about a one-sided Pyroclasm.

There are actually two ways to go with this card. Here's the other:

Obviously one is better in multiplayer and the other's better in a duel. Both are printable (though Dev could easily show it needs to cost 1RR, 3R or 2RR). Etc. What I'd rather talk about is what kinds of cards should be strictly positive and which should be symmetrical.

Small Pox is perhaps the perfect argument for symmetrical cards. Yes, you could print a version that only affected a target player by adding mana (+4 or 5 is my guess) and you'd get something not entirely unlike Cruel Ultimatum, a well-loved card. But we already have Cruel Ultimatum and making a lesser, mono-black version doesn't add anything new to the game, where Small Pox does. These cards serve very different purposes and play completely differently.

Pox is about cleverly eaking out an advantage by manipulating the course of the game to get the most advantage of a card which is, at face value, a 3-for-4. The Ultimatum is about surviving until you can cast a single game-breaking spell that undoes all the damage you suffered getting there. If we were to make this "Cruel Pox" card that poxes just the opponent, it would have almost none of the charm of Small Pox and only a fraction of the power of Cruel Ultimatum. I'm not saying such a card should never be printed—It would be quite playable and a neat call back to this pair—but I'm glad it wasn't printed in place of Small Pox, proving that symmetrical effects are valuable to the game.

I'm not about to argue that all effects should be symmetrical, because it's pretty clear that the new batch of lords that pump only your creatures are simpler and more appealing. So the question is, where do we draw the line? Should we even them out, or skew toward one? Do we keep creatures strictly good and spells more symmetrical? I suspect both questions are mostly unanswerable and the truth will be revealed over time as the decision is made many times in case-by-case scenarios.

Let's start here, then. Is Pyroclasm too perfect to replace, or Electric Pulse a neat update? Does the answer change if it's for one block or for the forseeable future? What do you think?


  1. As a player, I love symmetrical cards and would enjoy a block (or set) with a stronger focus on them. I think one of the biggest subtle joys in Magic is building a deck and contriving a circumstance such that otherwise symmetrical effects are in your advantage.

  2. Uncommon board sweepers should definitely remain symmetrical. Otherwise, they're just too much of a beating in limited. For rares, I can see some value to Plague WInd effects, but normal Wraths also create interesting (and different) gameplay.

  3. I like asymmetrical effects, but I tend to agree with HV on this one. Either version of Electric Pulse above probably needs to be rare.

  4. Actually, doesn't it seem like we are moving in this direction already with cards like Aggravate and Chandra's Fury, which are uncommon and actually even common, respectively.

    The next logical place to push this would be upping the amount of damage from 1 to 2, so I think Electric Pulse is good design space to consider.

    I think it would be very interesting to see a set that played up both symmetry and asymmetry. Another aspect that I would like to see more of (even though it goes against new world order to see this below rare) is the use of drawbacks. For example, if Electric Pulse is overpowered, what about this?

    Directed Blast 2R
    ~ does 2 damage to creatures target opponent controls and 1 damage to creatures you control

  5. further to that last thought... what I mean is that an asymmetric drawback is sort of a compromise between asymmetry and symmetry when it comes to board sweepers.