Monday, September 24, 2012

Challenge #9: Results

Reading the submissions for this design challenge confirmed something I already suspected: making alternate victory conditions is extremely tricky.  It can't be too easy or too hard to fulfill.  It can't be too narrow for players to build around, but it also has to be a difficult enough hoop to feel worth jumping through.  It has to make some sort of sense in one-on-one duels as well as multiplayer games, including popular formats such as Commander.  The condition also needs to feel somewhat logical, or at least not completely arbitrary.

With that long list of conditions in mind, let's peruse my top three!

Third Place
Winner: Ben Heaton

Whenever a source deals damage to you, put a pain counter on Masochism.
When Masochism has nineteen or more pain counters on it, you win the game.
What I like best about this card is that you could give it to five Johnnies and they'd build five different decks around it.  Sure, they'd all need some life gain, unless it's some wacky format where you start at 40 life.  But one might go for Earthquake and Pestilence alongside Corrupt and Consume Spirit, while another opts for a board of Rakdos Ickspitter, Vulshok Sorcerer, and Basilisk Collar.

It's a bit odd that this doesn't trigger at the beginning of your upkeep like most alternate win cards.  Players who don't know the rules well may not realize that they can still kill somebody who has this at eighteen counters.

Second Place
Winner: ANThroplasm

Diversity Day
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may reveal your hand.  If you reveal both a sorcery and an instant card in this way, and you control at least one creature, one artifact, one land, and one planeswalker, you win the game.
An excellent open-ended card.  It promotes interaction and writes stories of epic games.  "I finally managed to resolve Ajani Vengeant, so Bret Naturalized my Mind Stone, but the next turn I drew a Tormod's Crypt, but Danny cycled Decree of Pain..."

There are two small changes I would make.  First, three mana of one color is a rather unfortunate restriction for a wacky fun card.  I'd rather see it at 3WW.  Second, I would remove the mention of planeswalkers.  As it is, a newer player who would like to build around this card might simply lack access to the necessary quantities of mythic rares.

First Place
Winner: Evan Jones

Invention's Promise
Artifact Creature - Avatar Construct
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, if it has flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, haste, lifelink, deathtouch, and hexproof, you win the game.
Story time!

I started playing Magic in 1995.  My first deck was red, and I distinctly remember putting Giant Strength and Firebreathing on a Roc of Kher Ridges as a "build your own Shivan Dragon".  And you know what?  It wasn't just because I was an unusually dense teenager.  It's because making your own huge monster is fun!  That's why R&D continues to print vast numbers of auras that we elites consider unplayable: people just love beefing up their dudes.  It's not smart Magic, but it's viscerally satisfying and will continue to grace kitchen tables for many years to come.  Admit it, reader: you've always wanted to stack eight auras/equipment on one amazingly badass critter and smash face with it.  (Please share your experiences in the comments.)

This card rewards that impulse in all of us.  It's impractical, but too appealing not to try.  What's more, Evan realized that the victory condition itself shouldn't be an upkeep trigger; you should actually have to smack somebody with it to claim the win.  This is a great design.


  1. When I look at Invention's Promise i'm reminded of Concerted Effort... And that's certainly what it'll take to win with it.

  2. Given the ability to cast a sorcery and respond with an instant, I'd propose this simplification of Anthroplasm's sweet idea:

    Diversity Day 2WWW
    If at any time you control a sorcery, an instant, a creature, an artifact, a land, and a planeswalker, you win the game.

    Or if the set uses Tribal for some bizarre reason:

    Diversity Day 2WWW
    If at any time each card type exists among cards you control, you win the game.

    (Would probably make it an artifact just because it's not particularly white or any other color)

    1. I don't think that most players even know what it means to control a sorcery.

    2. The question is, would this text help them figure it out or just baffle them?

  3. Invention's Promise is awesome because it rewards something fun that usually isn't good enough. I just wish Akroma (and her Memorial) didn't fulfill most of the requirements.

    1. Thanks! When designing it I actually tried to find the fewest amount of cards it would take to trigger the win. I *think* the answer is Akroma's Memorial, Basilisk Collar, and Mask of Avacyn, but even that requires the player to deal with any flying, nonred, nonblack creatures that could block the supercreature.

    2. So I just figured out the problem with Invention's Promise (It was subtle): You've just made this awesome creature and suddenly the game just ends and you don't get to actually kill your opponent with it.

      I guess I'd prefer something that keeps your monster alive & swinging and/or keeps you alive to watch it kill your opponent. But now I'm thoroughly out of alt-win territory.

    3. In my design experience, it's smart to reduce the amount of time between when the outcome of the game is known and when the game actually ends.

      You could have any number of variations where meeting the conditions of "giant all-powerful monster" puts you within striking distance of winning. For example:
      "As long as CARDNAME has flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, haste, lifelink, deathtouch, and hexproof, it also has +20/+20."

      ...but then the opponent would spend a bunch of time figuring out if she could live for another turn, probably wouldn't be able to, and it'd be substantially less satisfying, IMHO.

    4. You could switch it from "you win" to "that player loses", which would allow you to use your awesome construct over multiple turns in multiplayer games. Though this was technically an alt-win rather than alt-lose contest.

  4. If I weren't slow / easily distracted, I would've submitted:

    Ultimate Knowledge 3UUU
    At the beginning of your upkeep step, if you have more cards in your hand than in your graveyard and in your library, you win the game.

    but I'm also amused by:

    Expel to The Eternities XB
    Choose one—Exile target Planeswalker with X or fewer loyalty counters on it; or Target player with X or less life loses the game.

    1. I like Ultimate knowledge a lot, (in a self-mill exile your graveyard kind of way), since it is functionally similar to the deranged alchemsit winning condition, yet feels very different to me.

      The second one however is a big no-no spell. Your opponent does not get to react to this, it could be in any blue deck, cretes very very negative feelings. Alternative loss conditions are very different from alternative win ones in that they give the opponent a chance to react (door to nothingness for example).

      Also, while I like the idea of sending someone into the blind eternities, the problem remains that exiling a plainswalker feels inellegant, and most casual players would not get the reference to the eternities.

    2. Ultimate Knowledge is just flat out awesome and instantly grokkable.

      While Expel the Eternities makes you go hmm, I really like it also, and I don't think it has any problems with not being able to be responded to.

      You respond by gaining life with would be (almost) your only way out from an X burn spell as well (other than effects that prevent life loss).

      This is basically just allowing black to hit planeswalkers and players in a way more similar to -X/-X than damage.

      My biggest criticism actually is that "die from X life" is barely an alternate win condition from "do X damage".

    3. Yeah, Eternities is basically just a Blaze that hits planeswalkers instead of creatures. And can't decrease your life total / loyalty unless it's lethal. I think it's just barely different enough, but probably not worth the confusion.

    4. I could totally see Eternities printed in something like a Planechase deck.

    5. Oh excuse me! I seem to have had a brainfart. I thought the cost xas XU.

      Well I presented my point of view, but try playtesting against the card? I can accept loosing to a blaze, but this feels a tiny bit inelegant in that black is not supposed to banish things (even dark banishing destroys, it does not exile) make it destroy target planeswalker or deal X damage to target player that is at X life, change the name and I am sold.

  5. Cool contest. I LOVE Invention's Promise! Sounds like a fun deck.

  6. These are great. I'd make one change: I'd be tempted to make Invention's Promise legendary. The cons are obvious; youcan't swarm with multiples if you're using Akroma's Memorial, and it answers itself (problematic as it's so easy to answer), but the pro would be in Commander. This would be wonderful as a commander because you could keep trying again and again. I think it'd be fun to playtest at different costs and p/t and as a commander to see what's more fun.

    1. The solution is not to make the card legendary but instead to make a new format where all creatures are legendary. There can only be one OF ANYTHING per battle...

  7. I was also slow and submitted this after the cutoff

    Loaded Dice WWUUBB

    Whenever a spell or ability causes cards or permanents to be chosen
    randomly, you may chose instead.
    Sacrifice Loaded Dice: If you did not choose who would take the first turn
    this game, you win the game.

    A fair game should not depend on who goes first - Augustin IV

    1. Yikes. That win condition seems way too easy.
      The first ability is pretty awesome, though.

    2. I guess it should citp tapped and need to tap and sac, but really I think it's not that unfair.

      I mean this is a 6 mana, hard to cast, do almost nothing artifact half the time.

      I mean, it's a lot easier to cast and sac than say Door to Nothingness is to go off but again the fact that it's basically a dead card in half the games makes up for that.

  8. I was bit disappointed that my first submission turned out to be a parallely designed version of Azor's Ellocutors on an enchatment:

    Enforced Peace 3WW
    At the end of each combat phase, if no creature attacked, put a peace counter on ~
    Whenever a creature attacks, remove all peace counters from ~
    At the beginning of your turn, if ~ has 5 or more peace counters on it, you win the game.

    I then submitted something that is probably too jhony-centric:

    Seeker of Spellmastery 3UR
    Creature Veldakin Wizard 1/5
    When ~ comes on the battlefield, exile an instant and a sorcery spell from your hand.
    At the beginning of your turn, if there are 3 copies of each card exiled with ~ in your graveyard,
    you win the game.

    1. I don't know that a Johnny card can be "too Johnny." You lose breadth of appeal but gain depth.

    2. I think that victory conditions that are too narrow or inelegant -like this one, in hindsight- are things we should stay away from.

      It should be something that is difficult to achieve, yet estheticly pleasing when you read it. More of a top down meats bottoms up cards.

  9. I was really intimidated by this contest, and never finalized my submission. Then this weekend I came up with this:

    Momir Vig’s Petting Zoo (Rare)
    At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control ten or more creatures that don’t share a creature type with any other permanent you control, you win the game.

    The thing I like is that it can't be cheated with changeling, works with fewer creatures than Epic Struggle, and sneakily works with Morph's facedown creatures.

    1. This could even happen with 7 creatures that do not share types, since the "classes" confine your choses even more.

    2. Seems like the big problem behind this one is when someone inevitably plays one or more old cards that's had their creature type(s) errated and then has to convince her opponent that she's actually won, inevitably having to call up the Gatherer page for each individual card...

    3. I like this quite a bit; it's an example of a "gain an eclectic set of stuff" win condition, but a very simple one, and yet one that rewards building a quirky dedicated deck.

      Although it may also need to be tweaked not to combo with Ego Erasure ( Although ten creatures, an enchantment, and an instant may be a hard-enough barrier for a win condition.

    4. Okay, I found a super elegant way around the Changeling problem.

      "At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control a Human, a Zombie, an Elf, a Goblin, a Merfolk, a Beast, a Vampire, an Elemental, a Spirit, and no Brushwaggs, you win the game."

      Perfect, right?

  10. Just came up with this one:

    Victory Condition 4WW
    At the beginning of your upkeep, every player wins the game.

    1. I'm fairly certain that promoting draws is a bad idea.

    2. But it's not a draw - it's everybody winning!

      It quickly becomes the dominant deck in most formats and everyone splits every prize and goes home smiling. Yay!


  11. My submission was as follows:

    Neuroelectric Eruption 2UURR
    At the beginning of each end step, if you cast 20 or more spells this turn, you win the game.

  12. how about this one (name change possible, but not recommended)

    ha-HA! Muthafucka! UUUUU
    ha-HA! muthafucka can only target spells an opponent controls
    ha-HA! muthafucka can only target permanents during an opponent's turn
    Choose one - counter target instant or sorcery an controls with an alternate win condition, or destroy target permanent with an alternate win condition.
    If ha-HA! Muthafucka! resolves with valid targets you win the game.

    the best possible scenario is the ha-ha'd ha-ha.
    I figure this is an extremely blue card, but the flavor might be a touch red.
    poison counters are an alternate loss condition, right? no need for specific errata there?