Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bloodrush vs Unleash

Bloodrush has been revealed as the new ability word for Gruul. For some cost less than the creature's mana cost, you can discard it to boost one of your attacking creatures. The boost matches the bloodrush card's power, toughness and additional abilities. As an ability that foregoes permanent board advantage (in the form of creatures played) in exchange for extra damage and/or combat superiority, it's a very aggressive and very red mechanic.

Since it takes the place of combat spells like Wildsize and using it will reduce the number of creatures you get to play—something most aggressive decks want to maximize—I'm hoping that there will be a lot more creatures in place of spells in the R/G portion of Gatecrash to compensate.

What I really want to talk about is whether the block as a whole might have been better served if the bloodrush mechanic were used for Rakdos (with a name like "flail" or "kamikaze") and unleash were used for Gruul. Before I continue, let me clarify that I'm not suggesting R&D made a poor choice—bloodrush was a late addition to Gatecrash design and Return to Ravnica was most likely already locked in by that time (or at least too far along for such a large overhaul).

The reason I would suggest this switch is that bloodrush feels very Rakdos to me: You're sacrificing a creature for added aggression. At the same time, unleash feels very Gruul to me: You're letting your primal instincts and rage loose to go all-out on offense.

Mechanically, unleash fits black-red a bit better since that color pair shares "can't block" and "must attack" in common where green has no such restriction (beyond the inherent "can't block… flying creatures.") Bloodrush also skews toward black-red mechanically because it's limited to offensive use, something Giant Growth has never had a problem.

Thematically though, making a creature bigger is very green and "can't block" actually makes perfect sense in the green philosophy. Of course there are beasts so vicious that they can't be trained to block when they could be charging ahead. I'd say green has never* used that ability because it needs creature enhancements more than drawbacks (and to help differentiate it from red's beasts).

Do these cards not feel right to you?

I will concede that creature pump feels odd in black, but it's not entirely foreign (Dark Favor, Looming Shade) and when you consider Brine Shaman, Wicked Reward and Armor Thrull, it's at least arguable when you sacrifice a creature. Again, that it's only for offense means you're not using Goblinball to set up a good block or save your creatures from removal.

It's also worth noting that despite being for offense-only, bloodrush isn't sorcery speed. That means you're not casting it before you attack to maximize damage, but instead are using it as mind game. Knowing that your deck is full of pump spells makes blocking very risky and expensive for the defender. Much of the time, you'll attack with mana open, wait for your opponent to admit that blocking would be foolish, and then make another creature after combat. When they do block, you deny their trade (or blow them out entirely) with a bloodrush pump. Either way you remain on the offensive, but most of the value the ability is bringing is psychological, which seems much more black than green to me.

It's also worth talking about how this switch would effect the rest of the block. In Return to Ravnica, scavenge can prevent a leashed Grim Roustabout from blocking but is usually a nonbo in your Jund deck. Detain can punish you for unleashing your guys by making sure you never get to block that Stealer of Secrets. In Gatecrash, bloodrush might help you trigger cypher (but I don't expect UBRG to be a common deck) and would definitely make you confident enough to attack with assault… except that you really want to be saving that creature to reach threshold with. Using bloodrush doesn't count as casting a spell, so it's a nonbo with extort.

If they were swapped, unleash would be tangling with evolve a tiny bit but would otherwise be enabling cypher and assault (again, as much as those colors can overlap). Bloodrush wouldn't really interact (except in the usual ways) with any of the RtR mechanics. If your goal is to minimize negative interactions, swapping them is the right call. If your goal is maximizing interactions regardless of their polarity, I think we get more by keeping unleash and bloodrush where they are.

What do you think?


  1. Very interesting. I think bloodrush is a tough sell for B/R just because the way they pump is so similiar. At least with R/G you're going to see very different implementations in each color. However, the fact that it gives the target a keyword too could be played up to compensate. Regardless, I agree that I could very much imagine Green unleash cards or Black bloodrush in some future set.

    Two points to add:

    * B/R bloodrush would synergize very well with Hellbent.

    * R/G unleash would fit the pie more accurately if it gave the creature "This must attack each turn if able" rather than "This can't block."

    1. On point #2, unleash started that way because it felt more like "damn the consequences." They changed it because it felt so weird to block after choosing to unleash.

      All of the other points are valid, I guess the dividing line is how important we feel color pie integrity to be. Is it worth extensive bleed to gain these other benefits?

      This bleed could be mitigated somewhat by making bloodrush play correctly for black (and better for red), just giving abilities and +X/+0 where X is power. I don't see a similar solution for unleash in green, but one mechanic bleeding is a lot less egregious than two.

  2. I think both shift are harder sell than you make it look. "this creature can't block" seems to me completely off-color for green.

    Conversely, the type of pumps created by bloodrush are particularly off-color for black, who usually uses instant-speed pump (besides sruff like the shade ability) as an extra to granting a keyword, plus black's modern pumps are always +X/-X or +X/+0. In general, black doesn't need pump with all the removal it already has!

    At least Bloodrush having a green element explains how different the RG bloodrush cards are to the one red one we've seen (I for one don't expect to see a monored 3/3 bloodrush creature).

  3. Replies
    1. And yet Unleash is a creature-boosting mechanic...

    2. Unleash isn't a creature boosting mechanic. It makes the creatures themselves bigger. Whereas bloodrush says, "Hey, all your creatures are also Giant Growths and Thunder Strikes." That's the type of boosting Maro meant.

      Still, it's going to be strange for Red, which normally only gives power bonuses, to give +2/+1, +3/+1 and +4/+2.

    3. Yeah, I'm pretty sure he meant instant speed pump spells, since that's what Bloodrush creatures double as. Black has gotten two over the last four blocks: Virulent Swipe and Tainted Strike. Red and Green both have a zillion.

      +1/+1 counters, however, are relatively common in Black.

    4. As Jules points out, the execution probably would have been a bit different. Perhaps:

      Bloodrush Zombie 2B
      2/2 Zombie
      Bloodrush — B, Discard ~: Target creature gets +2/+0 and gains deathtouch until EOT.

      That would fit better with red as well.

  4. Also here's something my friend pointed out that no one seems to be picking up on. You can't counter Bloodrush in Standard (at the moment) as it's an activated ability not a spell.
    This may make a difference in it's play.

    1. It's quite appropriate given these are the two colors that are most likely "can't be countered". But then there were two counter to abilities in original Ravnica (Azorius Guildmage and Voidslime), so a card that can keep bloodrush in check being either in RTR block or the next is not out of the question IMO (sadly enough, that will not be Burning-Tree Shaman XD, but Reroute could be fun with scavenge and detain around).

  5. I think the premise of "sacrificing a creature for an effect" is off. As implemented you are discarding a creature spell not a creature and I think while B is happy with either BR really should be about sacing actual creatures which would change the mechanic to onboard tricks (probably free or cheap since you'd have to cast the creatures)

  6. I will use this space to place my own 5 guild mechanics I designed for the gatecrash guilds. Note that I have yet to look at the mechanics, I simply created them from what I know about he guilds.
    Boros: Morale Boost (When this permanent enters the battlefield, target creautre gets +X +0, where X is the number of creatures you control).
    Notes: It can go on any permanent, not just creatures. When it goes on a creature it counts itself for the effect so they must be costed appropriatly. An example could be a french vanilla 2R 1/1 with the keyword. Has not been playtested.

    Dimir: Conspiracy (Whenever you draw a card outside the draw step or search your library, you may place a +1/+1 counter on this card)
    Notes: While not as creative as Transmute, it still indirectly interacts with the library. Cards with the ability may also have conditional evasion to make the mechanic more effective. The flavour behind is that each time you draw or search the library you are gathering information and thus making the creature have advantages due to it.

    Orzhov: Spiritise X (When this permanent dies, put X 1/1 white and black spirit tokens with flying into play under your control).
    Notes: It could potentially go on non-creature permanents as long as there is some life flavour to them, or instants and sorceries that grant the ability to a creature.

    Simic: Unstable DNA 2U(2U, Exile this card from your hand: creatures you control with Unstable DNA gain all activated abilities on cards exiled this way)
    Notes: Costs can vary depending on the abilities of the card. All cards with unstable DNA must have an activated ability of some sort, similar to the ones on Graft cards, ike flying, trample, hexproof, giving +1/+1 counters to itself, etc. The mechanic is quite parasitic and only sinergizes with itself but I think it would be fun to play with and allows creature modification.

    Gruul: Impatience 1( Pay 1 life: Reduce this card's cost by (1).)
    Notes: The Impatience number can vary depending on the card. Cost reduction is good for green stompy decks like the Gruul, and cards must be costed accordingly for both modes, regular and when cast with impatience. Example: 3G 3/3 Impatience2
    4R 4/4 Impatience1.
    I wanted to have the user pay 2 life per mana of cost reduced but that would not allow for a more modular mechanic where the impatience number for each card ca change. Also, there are only 2 modes, either regular cost or the full impatience reduced cost; if a card has impatience 2 then the 2 life must be spent.

    Please don't be too harsh on the feedback, it is my first attempt at designing mechanics, and I didn't have time to playtest them. As of writing this, I haven't seen the contents of this page except for the name Bloodrush and that could have some bias on my own Gruul mechanic. All these mechanics are very simple, which is something that is needed for mechanics to be at common. But I think that all of these could be printed by wizards with few modifications.

    1. For dimir, I was trying really hard to come up with an evasion mechanic but came up empty. I tried keywording "cannot be blocked except by creatures with defender"but it seemed really bland. Intimidate already mentions colors. Other ideas could be mana costs or power/toughness conditional evasions, like for example Sneaky X(Cannot be blocked except by creautes with power X or greater).
      I also tried saboteaur abilities, but simple ones are hard to come by and I found it pointless to keyword "when this creature deals comabat damage, draw/discard a card". I also thought of attaching saboteaur to milling with a keyword, but in the end I settled for the mechanic I designed above.

    2. Welcome, Anonymous. You show great restraint in not following the spoilers.

      Morale Boost is pretty solid. It says both "attack" and "play more creatures." I was tempted to suggest that +X/+X would be more white-red, but I think you're right to leave toughness out of it, because the tempo boost of untradeable creatures attacking every turn would be crazy.

      I like your reasoning for Conspiracy—that knowledge is power, but it's still weird that the spy mechanic is all about making your creatures bigger. Maybe, whenever you draw a card after the the first for the turn or search your library, ~ becomes unblockable until EOT. Different cards could have different effects, one gains +1/+0 and intimidate, another gains deathtouch and another flying + ophidian. It would be an ability word, not a keyword, but that didn't stop R&D.

      Spiritize seems strong enough, but perhaps a little boring. It also doesn't really scream Orzhov to me. Where's the righteous authority preying on the citizenry for personal profit?

      Unstable DNA might feel a bit too much like the original Simic cards. We're basically recreating Helium Squirter in a more parasitic way.

      As you say, it's a bit weird that Impatience puts life payments in green and red, but it's not a bad fit. It would work better for Rakdos, though.
      I'm not even sure what Impatience 2 means. Am I paying 2 life for 1 mana or 1 life for 2 mana or 2 life for 2 mana?

      Thanks for contributing. We all start out a little rough (and I still make bad designs), but you've shown some promise. Getting feedback is definitely the first step to real improvement.