Friday, January 4, 2013

CCDD 010413—Bloodcall

Cool Card Design of the Day
1/4/2013 - I recently wondered if unleash wouldn't have been a better keyword for Gruul and bloodrush for Rakdos. This morning, I thought a bit about other possibilities for the Gruul mechanic. I named them all bloodcall, but have five executions for you to consider. They all preserve the Gruul focus on attacking, but are more focused on getting your creatures onto the field rather than into your graveyard.


The first is the most similar to bloodrush. What if you could get the same attacker pump, but you get to keep the creature instead of discarding it? Obviously, the ability then has to cost more instead of less, at which point it plays more like kicker than evoke.

Putting the creature into play to grant its power feels a little funny (though putting it OTB tapped might help illustrate that he's rushing in to lend his support from the rear); what if we put creatures into play attacking?

When this guy attacks, he calls forth his allies to join him. This mostly amounts to one-free-haste-per-turn, but leads into the next, more interesting iteration:

Identical to version 2 except that your creatures are actually cheaper to "cast into combat." I like that this keyword promotes both attacking and playing lots of creatures. I do wish you could combine two of them to cast a single creature for a larger discount.

Version 4 limits the possibilities drastically, but is more self-contained:

This is basically ninjitsu (ala Ninja of the Deep Hours) without the cost of returning one of your attackers to your hand (or the requirement of not being blocked). It probably makes sense to keep the commons with this keyword otherwise vanilla, but at uncommon and up ETB effects could be pretty interesting (click to enlarge):

Here's a slight tweak on version 4 with a more generic, scaling ability:

I wanted to take one more crack at the idea that multiple bloodcallers could help summon a single creature at a reduced cost. Like some kind of multi-use aggro convoke:

You don't get the creature attacking the same turn, but you do get to play creatures faster as a reward for attacking. If this proved good enough on its own, I would definitely pair it up with a bunch of clansmen with ETB and/or static effects:

You could arguably add the into-play-attacking clause to this, but I think that text is too long and unwieldy  I prefer a shorter keyword because Gruul is a guild of few words. I like the gameplay of versions 1 and 3 best, but 5 is so much simpler. What do you think?


  1. I like how version 3 lets the Bloodcaller bring along a friend to the fight. You could even have the creature come down for free (balanced by a CMC check), and return to your hand at end of turn, like Viashino Sandscout.

    Bloodcall Berserker 3G
    Creature - Human Berserker
    Bloodcall (When this attacks, you may put a creature card with converted mana cost less than this onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. Return that card to your hand at end of turn.)

    I couldn't resist making a pet that pairs well with the bloodcaller:
    Bloodcaller's Pet 2G
    Creature - Hound
    When ~ enters the battlefield, target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

    1. Interesting. That you're getting the creatures for free but returning them means you effectively have half your army in your hand where only discard can hurt them (outside of combat). It also means you've got a bunch of extra mana to spend on other things (like combat tricks and Ranger's Guiles to protect your semi-visible army). I would definitely try this out.

    2. This sounds like a super fun mechanic to play with. It lets you cheat a bit on mana, but the advantage doesn't snowball because the creatures leave play. It's balanced by the fact that the attacker with this mechanic can be blocked and killed. It makes combat tricks important. And it allows some fun combos.

      It could be a Red desert-raider's mechanic in Ankh Theb. Interestingly, that would match what Fading was saying about Red having Viashino Sandstalkers and "can't block" effects induced by heat shimmers.

    3. We should definitely investigate the possibility of a "put a creature card from your hand OTB tapped and attacking; return it at EOT" effect in Ankh-Theb. I have no problem with this execution—"Sandpeople always ride single file to hide their numbers"—but I wouldn't discount other potential triggers/abilities.

      For instance:
      Desert Raider 2R
      3/2 Viashino Nomad
      Raid R (You may cast ~ for its raid cost. If you do, it has haste and "At EOT, return ~ to your hand.")

  2. I'm not convinced that the Convoke-esque versions are Gruul enough. Obviously tribes do work together, but since it's next to other guilds I think it makes more sense to emphasize Selesnya and Boros as the teamwork guilds. The one other person having your back feel resonates better with me, and #1 with tapping fulfills that pretty well in my book. The major concern there is that you gain such a huge card+tempo advantage that we'd either need to cost the ability so high that nobody would be interested or make everything an X/1. The latter could probably be done in red, but would be harder to pull off in green; that said, the presence of Evolve in the set helps, so I'd at least give it a try.

    1. It may make sense for the bonus in this case to be just to power, so that your attackers are just as likely to die in combat, turning the tempo advantage into just a damage advantage.

  3. "Attacking lets you get more creatures" is a cool idea. Ultimately I feel like none of these are the simplest execution, though:

    Bloodcall G (At the beginning of your first main phase, you may add G to your mana pool. If you do, this creature must attack this turn if able.)

    True, this version lets you get stuff that's not creatures. But I feel like simplicity might win out over flavor in this case. What do you think?

    (Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of Convoke. I feel like extremely linear mechanics like Convoke require a benefit bigger than cost-effectiveness to feel worth the effort it takes to build around the mechanic. Then again, I'm also not a Spike.)

    1. Perhaps…

      Bloodcall G (At the beginning of your second main phase, if ~ attacked this turn, add G to your mana pool.)

      Bloodcall G (Whenever ~ attacks, add G to your mana pool. Until end of turn, this mana doesn't empty from your mana pool as steps and phases end.)

    2. Those both work, but ultimately I feel like the trigger happening during the first main phase is more interesting, as it:

      a) encourages you to play creatures during your 1st main phase, which isn't what people usually do (so you're essentially giving your opponent information in exchange for power, which feels very red/green)

      b) opens up more synergy with other tricks, allowing you to tap down/bounce/Pacifism your own creatures in order to get the mana but avoid the drawback

  4. First let me just say that all the above ideas were awesome, good work guys!

    One thing that i noticed about some of the iterations, is that there is the potential for each card to build on the others in play. here is my example (calling it AMBUSH)

    Gruul Ambusher 1G
    Ambush (When you declare attackers, you may put this card into play tapped and attacking as long as you control a number of attacking creatures equal to CARDNAMES converted mana cost.)

    1. Interesting. It amazes me how many interesting variations there are on these abilities.

      Gruul Ambusher #2 1G
      Ambush (Whenever you attack with a creature with higher CMC, you may put ~ from your hand OTB tapped and attacking.)

      Gruul Ambusher #3 3G
      Ambush (Whenever you attack with another creature, you may put ~ from your hand OTB tapped and attacking. Return it to your hand at end of turn.)

  5. I like this exploration; I don't think the "real" Bloodrush feels like a good Gruul mechanic (discarding creatures intead of playing them? Eugh). I ended up with slightly different (and pretty long) rules text for my version;

    Bloodcall (If you control an attacking creature, you may pay to put this creature onto the battlefield tapped and attacking the same player or planeswalker as that creature.)

    A few cards I made with the mechanic to explore - currently, you can use the ability post-blocks which basically guarantees damage, which means something for their balance but also the design space.

    Gruul Bloodstoker 1R
    Creature - Goblin Shaman (C)
    Bloodcall 6R
    When ~ enters the battlefield, another target attacking creature gets +5/+0 until end of turn.

    Veinsnapper Elemental 1RRR
    Creature - Elemental (R)
    Trample, Haste
    Bloodcall 3RRR
    If ~ entered the battlefield during your main phase, sacrifice it at end of combat.

    Lifeforce Shaman 2GG
    Creature - Ogre Druid (U)
    Bloodcall 2GG
    When ~ enters the battlefield, add R or G to your mana pool for each creature you control.

    War Empath 1G
    Creature - Human Shaman (C)
    Bloodcall 3G
    When ~ enters the battlefield, put two +1/+1 counters on target creature you control.

    Gruul War-Rider 2RG
    Creature - Warrior (U)
    Bloodcall RG

    Spirit of the Old Clans RG
    Creature - Spirit Warrior (R)
    Bloodcall RG
    At the end of combat, return ~ to its owner's hand.

    1. Cool. I wouldn't put an effect that isn't always relevent on a common creature (Gruul Bloodstoker), but it's clear this would be fun to play with.

  6. Hmm. What about reverse-Ninjitsu?

    Clobber (X, Return a blocked creature you control to its owner's hand: Put ~ OTB tapped and attacking, blocked by the same creature(s). X is ~'s mana cost less the returned creature's mana cost.)

    Clobber Wurm 4GG
    6/4 Wurm
    Clobber (X, Return a blocked creature you control to its owner's hand: Put Clobber Wurm OTB tapped and attacking, blocked by the same creature(s). X is 4GG less the returned creature's mana cost.)

  7. Out of these Gruul mecahnics, I think the best ones are the ones that reduce cost or add mana when attacking. This is the Gruul mechanic I came up with before reading this or the real one:
    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.

    life payment may not be very green but if it instead added mana to your pool rather than reduce sot it would feel more red/green, keeping the life payment. I had not thought of using attacking creatures as a mean to reduce cost but I like that much more than my mechanic.

  8. Reading this today, I was surprised that I called out 1, 3, and 5. I'm feeling 4 now. (And 1's sold too.)
    5 is just worse than "whenever ~ attacks, add mana.*"
    * At your next main phase or that doesn't empty immediately.