Friday, September 28, 2012

Challenge #9: Critique

VanVelding submitted this alternate victory card for critique:
Bind in Tribulation (Rare)
Pay 2 life: Target opponent gains 2 life. Only any opponent may activate this ability.
At the beginning of your upkeep, Bind in Tribulation deals 3 damage to target opponent with the lowest life total. If that player loses the game, you win the game. (If two or more opponents are tied for lowest life, target any one of them.)
He writes:
Bind in Tribulation creates a more interactive (and obviously multiplayer) win card than most, allowing other players to help the weakest player survive your next upkeep. As the win condition only applies on the triggered ability's resolution, players may instead vie to kill that player at another time (or just kill you). Four damage instead of three would add pressure, but make it a cheap source of recurring damage in duels, which isn't the intention. Adding ETB to the trigger and/or letting the win condition apply until your next upkeep are tempting, but there's just no room.
The basic idea here is solid.  The mini-game it sets up seems reliably hilarious.  It definitely only works properly in multiplayer, which, once upon a time, would have made it unprintable.  (Have a look at some of the comments Ryan Sutherland got in the first Great Designer Search.)  But nowadays we have cards like Hydra Omnivore and Death by Dragons, so this is a plausible card for the appropriate product.

The biggest problem here is templating.  The current wording, with two separate abilities, doesn't read very well.  The first ability only makes any sense at all after you've read the second.

As I understand it, the goal is to create a Kill Doctor Lucky-esque "not it!" situation among one's opponents.  This doesn't need to be split up; it can happen entirely during the upkeep:
At the beginning of your upkeep, CARDNAME deals 3 damage to each opponent with the lowest life total unless any player pays 3 life.  If this damage reduces a player's life total to less than 1, you win the game.
This changes the mechanics of the card significantly, but I believe it preserves the idea: make other opponents argue over who has to pay life to keep the weakest one alive.  What do you think?


  1. That's interesting. I was so focused on it hitting one guy and checking cards like Celestial Convergence and Repay in Kind for handling ties that I never considered letting it just hit everyone who qualified.

    I am curious about why the "win the game" bit changed from working on their loss to triggering on reducing a life total below 1. Is it because it's clearer to say "this damage reduced a player's life to less than 1" than "this damage caused a player to lose the game"?

    Your version is definitely cleaner. Thanks for the critique.

    1. Yes, I thought the "less than 1" language was more precise, although "this damage caused a player to lose the game" also seems pretty clear to me. Probably a question for a true rules guru, which I am not.

      Thanks for the submission, and I'm glad you appreciated the critique!

    2. One reason is that players don't lose the game for having 0 or less life until SBEs, so the original couldn't be templated as it was: the player wouldn't have lost the game until after the ability finished resolving.

      Also, that first ability was unprintably confusing. I had to think about it about 4 times before I was reasonably confident whether the "target opponent" gaining the life needed to be an opponent of the card's controller or of the player activating the ability.

  2. I really like the idea of the minigame, but these cards seem to be jumping through a hoops to get there. Some thing like:

    Vorinclex, Alpha Predator 2GG
    Legendary Creature- Praetor M
    Vorinclex must attack the player with least life if able. (Vorinclex can attack its controller)

    This still creates the "not it" minigame, while being more straight forward. This version doesn't win you the game outright, but it still has that tension of moving onto the next victim after the first dies. It might not meet the criteria of the contest, but I think it's an interesting design space.

    1. If I was strictly remaking the card in question:

      Punish the Weak 1BR
      At the end of each opponent's turn, if that player has the least life, Punish the Weak deals 3 damage to them. If Punish the Weak deals lethal damage to a opponent this way, you win the game.

      The problem with these cards is that they probably aren't going to create a "Let's save Johnny" mentality at the table as much as a "Let's kill that guy, he's about to win". It's just much easier to kill one player than to deal with one of these minigames.