Monday, September 10, 2012

Challenge #8: Results

I'd forgotten how difficult it is to grade these things!  There were many strong submissions, all of which could have made good combat mechanics.  I picked the three that seemed to have the most potential for creating fun and interesting gameplay, but I can imagine another judge picking an entirely different set of winners.  Let's cruise into the red zone and see what people came up with.

Third Place
Winner: Jules Robins

Terror of the Night
Creature - Horror
Dreamtrapse (Terror of the Night can only be blocked by tapped creatures.)
Of all the mechanics submitted for this contest, I found this one hardest to evaluate.  On the one hand, it's good for mechanics to be not wholly obvious in their usefulness.  A mechanic that makes players think, "Hmm... how could I use this?" is going to stick in their brain, which is good.  However, people also need the cards to guide them towards deckmaking decisions, and it's good to be able to look at a keyword and think, "Oh, I should put this in my ____ deck."  

Dreamtrapse is tricky, because it sets up unusual feedback systems.  Normally, attacking is a positive feedback loop: if you attack, you have fewer creatures around for blocking, and your opponent has an easier time attacking next turn.  And then you have an easier time attacking the next turn, etc.  Dreamtrapse sets up a negative feedback loop!  The more creatures you attack with, the more blockers you have, and the harder it becomes for your opponent to attack.  This completely rewrites the normal rules of blocking, racing, and trading, which is both exciting and dangerous.  I love major changes to the feel of the game, but it's far from clear how fun the resulting environment would be.  Serious playtesting would be necessary to figure this out.  (My sneaking suspicion is that Dreamtrapse is actually a disadvantageous ability more often than not.)

Second Place
Winner: Nich Grayson

Spellsling Channeler
Creature - Ogre Shaman
Infused (Whenever combat damage is dealt to this creature, at the beginning of the next main phase, add that much colorless mana to your mana pool.)
This is a very interesting reward for putting your creature into combat.  I like the flavor of the ability, and can imagine some cool art and flavor text to support it.  In terms of gameplay, it's straightforward and solid: throw your dude into the red zone, and you're threatening to drop a fatty or play multiple spells if they block.  

What I particularly like, though, is that this is an interactive form of mana ramp.  You can't just sit there casting elf after elf; you get it as a reward for having your creatures get off their butts and fight.  In particular, there's just no way to abuse Infused in a combo deck; it's a "fair" mechanic that still has the potential to get fatties on the table quickly.

One slightly awkward thing about Infused is that it technically works on the defense as well, but the mana will nearly always go unused.

First Place
Winner: Mad Olaf

Crazed Tribal
Creature - Human Barbarian
Enrage (When this creature becomes blocked, put a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Simple, but effective.  This sort of quasi-evasion is nearly always fair, because barring Lure effects, it's straight up worse than unblockability.  Enrage has lots going for it: it works great with auras and pump spells, plays differently on different sizes of creature, and feels really satisfying when it works.  Your opponent does have to start blocking sooner or later, if the game is at all close, and it feels great to get value out of this.  It also propels the game to the end and rewards you for setting up a good attack.  Unlike Stromkirk Noble and its ilk, this won't end the game too rapidly if one player stumbles on lands.  

Thanks to all participants!  I'm off to a wedding this week, but a new challenge will probably come next Monday.


  1. Thanks! :) You should let them know I have a design blog too!

  2. Regarding Dreamtrapse, you may also check Devon Rule's dreamwalk ( in GDS2. They mine a similar design space. To me, I don't think the added complexity and novelty may be worth of it. That said, an interesting and thoughtful idea.

  3. Nice work, folks. These all look interesting and/or fun.

  4. Wow Olaf, Enrage is awesome! Like, AWESOME!!

    Regarding Dreamtrapse...

    There was another casual GDS2 guy named DrJones who had a similar mechanic called sideways (I think Devon pulled some of DrJones's cards for dreamwalk), and he and I switched worlds for the Trading Places challenge.

    I mocked up a couple simple demos, but the cards were really difficult to play with. I think I'm ok at this game, but trying to plan out combat was very hard, and the games broke down into just sitting and not attacking.

    I think similar mechanics are ok on rare cards (like Masako the Humorless), but I don't think it should be on commons, and it's not really worth a keyword.

  5. Enrage seems almost functionally identical to the Sengir Vampire ability paired with Bushido 1.

    I suppose it only works on offense, which makes it a bit more interesting from a deck-building perspective but provides fewer options in actual gameplay.