Friday, November 9, 2012

CCDD 110912—Buried Treasure

Cool Card Design of the Day
11/9/2012 - I mentioned that Wednesday's crazy mechanic bury had been inspired by an idea that was itself inspired by the set submissions. Today, I want to show you the middleman, but I can't do that without telling you about the original because—and yes this is a serious flaw—it really doesn't make any sense out of context.

Actually, there wasn't a single mechanic I can point to, it was more a confluence of similar mechanics. Dig, Explore and some un-keyworded abilities all shared in common a similar action: looking at or revealing the top N cards of your library. For the most part, these were smoothing mechanics—the kind of thing that's important for keeping games moving forward and making more games competitive, but that tends not to be terribly sexy. Smoothing mechanics keep exciting sets selling because of the good gameplay they support, but they don't make a set anymore exciting to begin with.

My goal was to make the choice to use one of these mechanics more exciting. To compel people to make their decks better by adding interest to the workhorse cards they might ignore otherwise.

Buried Treasure takes a cue from Panglacial Wurm and lets you cast the card from your library. In this case, it's meant to interact with Explore, Dig and/or the other cards that mess with the top of your library. It's open-ended enough that it can work with Scry, Cascade and older mechanics like that.

I considered versions that let you cast the card for free, or at another price (sometimes higher, sometimes lower), but decided the shortest version of the keyword is best. The Scrolls demonstrates that you can still add abilities to cards to make digging them up better than playing them normally.

It passes the creature test, giving it some versatility.

At the end of the day, buried treasure basically lets you get a free card by casting it during the short window of opportunity that look/reveal effects grant you. Mostly you want cheap, proactive effects players will always be happy to buy, but it seems like there's room for some utility cards too.

You can see the keyword works on any permanent, not just creatures.

And finally, I wanted to share a rare card. While demonstrating a keywords validity at common is a requirement (and the biggest reason "bury" isn't a great keyword), I wasn't going to end my mission of making look/reveal exciting with a few cards whose excitement is almost purely Spike-based.


  1. With the right cards to interact this looks like a potentially exciting mechanic. It could be great in about 3 of the sets in the set design. A real plus would surely be a uncommon or rarer card which makes it easy to shuffle your cards into your library - although perhaps not in black.

    Plus Buried Kavu is simply adorable. :)

  2. I like this mechanic a lot! Works with tutoring, scry, and effects in pretty much every color.

    Buried Baubles excites me like crazy - the idea of doing some sort of combo that lets me cast the top half of my deck or something from a single search is very enticing.

    Buried Demon is a really neat design. I would probably give it some drawback if you cast it from your hand, though, rather than it just being a blank. (Maybe it deals 6 damage to you and each other creature you control?)

  3. Just to be clear, would this mechanic work with fetchlands? Is "searching" a definably different action from "looking at or revealing"?

    If they do work on searching, these are all (excepted Buried Kavu) obviously criminally undercosted.

    1. This is the relevant entry from Panglacial Wurm:

      7/15/2006 Panglacial Wurm's ability works only while you're searching your own library. The effect that caused you to search needs to say "search" and "library," and you need to be looking through your own library for this to work. Examples of effects that let you cast Panglacial Wurm are Rampant Growth and Gifts Ungiven. Examples of effects that don't are Bribery and Sage Owl.

      So, yes, Jay choose a very particular subset of library-related actions that avoid the inherent brokenness of being fetch-friendly.

      That said, I can imagine a lot of players will get into semantic arguments as to whether or not "searching" for a land involves "looking" at cards in a player's library.

    2. Whenever I crack a fetch, I use my sense of smell to detect lands.

    3. I can easily imagine people arguing that searching counts as looking. We could…
      • add reminder text;
      • publicize the truth as they often do on Daily and at the Prereleases;
      • or remove "looking at or" so it only keys off of revealing cards.
      • clarify that search is done by smell and that looking counts as 'peeping.'

  4. This is a very problematic mechanic. Having occassional rares with this ability is different to making it a mechanic that would be supported by at least a dozen commons and more further up rarity because it basically turns any rampant growth or scry effect into a tutor.

    While one can mitigate the 'brokenness' by making the cards weaker, you will still have repetitive game play. Wizards is steering away from shuffling effects because of the busywork and from tutoring because of repetition.

    The Panglacial Wurm ability is fun, but it is precisely what MaRo means when he says "limited design space". This mechanic can only really appear, at best, on a cycle of cards. Anything more than that and it's just a big mistake.

    I think the mechanic would be much more effective as a Miracle variant which trigger not from being drawn, but from being revealed from your library. It doesn't trigger on your action of looking at your library or searching it, it triggers when the card itself is revealed. This would also make it clearer when you can cast it, as you current version's templating is confusing.

  5. Such a great mechanic. It's like proliferate, except probably not as exciting. But its backward-compatibility makes this so compelling.

    While Bass's comment seems to imply that he thinks that your current reminder text wording means that searching also counts, he does bring up the point in that in no way can this mechanic interact with searching. Because then it would encourage players to play lots of cards that search libaries, and shuffle libraries lots of times isn't fun.

    With that said, looking at cards in your library can be confused with searching. I would like to have both looking and revealing included not just so that Orcish Spy can be awesome but to maximize the potential interactive-ness this mechanic has with other card effects.

    So, I propose this wording:

    Buried Treasure (While revealing cards from your library or looking at cards from the top of your library, you may play this card from your library.)

    It was a bit awkward to word it like this, which uses less words, but maybe it's still O.K.:

    Buried Treasure (While revealing cards from or looking at cards from the top of your library, you may play this card from your library.)

    Also, I used "play" instead of "cast" in case you want buried treasure on a land. Though, I'm not sure that's kosher since lands don't use the stack. If it's not possible to play lands with buried treasure - no problem, use "cast."

  6. Was trying to figure out how the timing on this would work with Cascade (IE, can you cast the spell that would end the chain—and if you do, does it then continue on) so I looked up the reminder text. Turns out Cascade doesn't reveal cards from your library, it exiles them. While that seems much better for game balance (cascade didn't need an upgrade), it's another possible point of confusion for players.

    1. Frankly I don't think we need to worry about players getting confused about the interaction of two mechanics that would exist a minimum of 5 years apart. Modern has plenty of equally confusing things as it is, and it doesn't impact Limited or Standard.

      As for general thoughts on the mechanic, I think Bradley's wording does a pretty good job of clarifying that searching isn't involved, but I'm also not sure that Buried Treasure needs both the looking and revealing parts. Backwards compatibility is nice, but once the set-specific thing it interacts with is hammered down, it could be narrowed. For instance, there could be a mechanic in a Pirate setting where you play with the top card revealed and get a bonus for having a land on top, in which case the "looking at" part may prove to be unnecessary.

    2. If you have an Orrery in play and your opponent Excommunicates your Misthollow Griffin, and then you play Bloodbraid Elf, is there a window where you can cast Misthollow Griffin?

    3. No, nobody gains priority during the resolution of a spell or ability.