Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CCDD 082812—Healing Path

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/28/2012 - I know from experience that many of you enjoy doing a bit of armchair Development. I know I do. So here's a little challenge. Your task is to find the perfect numbers for a Rampant Growth that also gains life.

Not unlike Vapor Snag we could make a strictly better Rampant Growth that costs 1G but gains you 1 or even 2 life. I'm not a huge fan of that (or Vapor Snag) because you've made an iconic spell strictly worse than a glue-gunned card and that hurts the game's overall elegance. So I'm starting the proposals at GG. How much life should Healing Path gain its caster? 4 seems like the absolute maximum to me, since we've merely limited the card to mono-green decks (this version only gets Forests). 2 life might be a better choice since it matches the only other number on the card, the CMC. It might also be better balanced, but that depends a great deal on how well the Limited and Standard environments around this card can use heavy-green mana acceleration.

What if we increase the cost to 2G? We're not just paying one more mana, we're moving the fundamental turn this card enables from turn 3 with four mana to turn 4 with five mana. For that reason, 3 life to match the cost seems anemic (though the analogy to Natural End could be a counterargument). Nourish seems to be the upper end for unconditional green life gain, and Natural Spring might be the lower end. Considering that the Rampant Growth effect is far from irrelevant, we can't go too high. 5 seems like a lot here, which makes me think 4 is right for 2G and that it can't be right for GG.

At what price/life ratio would you play a card like this in Sealed deck? Limited? Standard? Is it reasonable to print at that level of efficiency?


  1. If we made it GG, search for any basic it might see fringe play. I would propose GG, search for any land and get 2 life.

  2. I'm inclined to think the card's pretty well placed as-is. My only fear would be finding a green common to print in the same limited environment that aided fixing or splashing.

    But in a set that provided artifact fixing as well as potentially-over-powered aggressive starts, this could be an archetype staple for putting together a green midrange/fatties deck. You'd have to ensure that a mostly-mono-green deck would have enough cards, but in a set with color distribution like Mirrodin Besieged or just a set with a high number of playables (a la Innistrad) it's definitely something we could see.

  3. Selesnyan Spring 3G
    Search through your library for a Plains and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Shuffle your library.
    You gain 1 life for each land you control.

  4. New borders 1G
    search your library for a plains or mountain card and put it onto the battlefield tapped.
    you gain 3 life.

  5. vapor snag isn't strictly better or worse, since it will vary who loses the life... you or opponent. the point stands about this one though, since it isn't targeted.

  6. I have an Idea:

    Life Rampant Growth 2G
    Search your library for a basic land card and put in onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library. You gain 3 life.

    1. I suspect this is the cleanest and thus optimal design.

  7. As far as strictly better Unsummons with inelegant designs go, it's hard to beat Word of Undoing.

  8. At 1G, Rampant Growth effects in Limited are really helpful for mana fixing, especially if you're playing a splash color. Unless you anticipated a Limited that's pushing mono-forests, GG is probably the wrong direction.

    I like the cost at 2G, gain 3 life. It looks pretty.

    It'd also be a sold aggro-stomper in Limited, and depending on the other cards in its format could be Constructed playable. If it was a Standard with some solid 5cc guys, it could be a key piece for a 1-3-5 midrange plan (aiming for something like turn 1 Bird, turn 2 "Life Growth," turn 3 Thragtusk).

    1. Consistent turn 3 Thragtusks are pretty good, especially sitting at 29 life(!). I wouldn't want to play the 12 dork, 8 Mana accel, 10 fatty deck.

      Add a splash of something for removal, and you have a good deck brewing.

      I really like this card. 2 life seems most elegant to me too.

  9. There's plenty of discussion to be had over the balancing, but I think it's really hard to do in a vacuum. This card isn't a mess, but neither is it a paragon of elegance, and it seems unlikely that the tacked together abilities support a set theme. The question that then needs to be asked is why the card is being printed.

    The most likely answers are that in limited, constructed, or both, the aggro decks are crushing the green fatties decks to a point where the format is unfun because the matchup feels futile. The balancing depends on which realm the problem arises in. The 2G, any, 3 version is the most elegant in my eyes, and would certainly do the job in limited, but constructed is likely going to demand a 2 cmc version or one that gains enough life to rival Pristine Talisman (5ish?). As for a 2cmc version, the exact number depends on the actual matchups at hand, but Kitchen Finks is a good reference for how hard it is for aggro to fight through life gain. One finks is barely beatable, and I doubt we're looking for that big an impact, so 4 is likely too high since a player might draw multiples.

    Regardless of the amount of life gained, there's still the issue of GG vs. 1G and what exactly it searches for. While these choices have impact on the card's constructed viability, they have a much bigger impact on limited play. Given the fact that this spell is significantly weaker than Sign in Blood in most limited formats I don't think making it a tool for mono-green makes a whole lot of sense, but it doesn't necessarily need to be a fixer either. I'd likely start with:

    Sorcery (C)
    Search your library for a Forest and put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
    You gain 2 life.

    in a the average set, but given that I'd rather keep the simplest versions in Core Sets, I'm not sure how much use that starting place is.