Friday, January 4, 2013

Ekkremes: The light will set us free

HV: This pitch is by James Bartolotti.  Here are the pitches from rounds one, two, and three.

Every thousand years, Ekkreme's elliptical orbit brings it within close range of its mana-rich sun. Those who take advantage of this influx of mana hope to use it to break free of their technocratic oppressors. The technocracy is represented with artifacts, operate, and colorless hybrid. The rising magic class embraces diversity of mana, with sunburst and cards that help other colors (e.g., Wing Granter and Surestrike Mentor).

Greenhouse Herbologist 2GG
Creature - Ouphe Druid (C)
Sunburst - when ~ enters the battlefield, put a 1/1 green saproling creature token onto the battlefield for each color of mana spent to cast this.

Relocate 2W
Instant (C)
Return target creature you control to its owner's hand, then terraform. (To terraform, sacrifice a land, search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.)

Pull out the Stops {2/R}{2/R}
Sorcery (C)
Creatures you control get +2/+0 until end of turn.

Wing Granter 3U
Creature - Bird Wizard (C)
When ~ attacks, you may have target white, black, red, or green creature gain flying until end of turn.

Gnome Barrier 2
Artifact Creature - Gnome Construct (C)
{2/W}{2/W}, sacrifice ~: put 2 1/1 white gnome artifact creature tokens onto the battlefield.

Power Plant 2
Artifact (C)
Operate 4 (4: Attach an unattached creature you control to this artifact, or unattach a creature from it. Attached creatures can't attack or block. Operate only as a sorcery.)
T: add 1 to your mana pool. If a creature is operating ~, add 2 to your mana pool instead.

Mage-Bane Technician U
Creature - Salamander Artificer (C)
Artifacts ~ is operating have hexproof.

Deny Death 2B
Sorcery (C)
Sunburst - Return up to X target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand, where X is the colors of mana spent to cast this.

Horizon Seeker 3R
Creature - Human Scout (C)
When ~ enters the battlefield, terraform (To terraform, sacrifice a land, search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.)

Smokestack Creeper 3B
Creature - Rat Rogue (C)
{2/B}: ~ gets +1/+1 until end of turn

Robot Factory 4
Artifact (U)
Operate 4 (4: Attach an unattached creature you control to this artifact, or unattach a creature from it. Attached creatures can't attack or block. Operate only as a sorcery.)
T: put a 0/1 colorless construct artifact creature token onto the battlefield for each creature operating ~.

Metalgrafter {2/U}{2/U}
Artifact Creature - Construct (U)
Whenever another artifact enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on ~.

Surestrike Mentor 3W
creature - Human Warrior (U)
blue, black, red, and green creatures you control have first strike.

Rainbow Elemental 5GG
Creature - Elemental (R)
Sunburst - ~ enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it.
Creatures you control enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each color of mana spent to cast them.

First of all, we very much liked the backstory for this plane.  The themes, scope, and metaphysics felt right for a Magic set.  They were also a good match for the flavor of the proposed mechanics.

Let's talk about Sunburst and "Twobrid".  (That is, hybrid mana of the form 2/C.)  Both of them have been used before, but have a fair bit of remaining design space.  (Greenhouse Herbologist and Smokestack Creeper are nice.)  Both of them are good mechanics that provide clear deckbuilding inspiration.  Terraform works well with both of them.  Personally, I am somewhat bothered by the fact that they pull in directly opposite directions.  I think that mechanics can pull orthogonally (like Metalcraft and Infect) but not completely against each other, or it becomes the "pick one or the other" message is too strong.  However, that is one strong way to paint the opposing factions of technocrats and mages, and some of the judges disagreed with me.

However, the biggest problem with Twobrid and Sunburst together is that they both put the focus of the game on casting costs and mana, which is not really where it belongs.  It's more exciting to think about what happens after spells are cast, not before!

This implementation of Operate is quite nice, and I particularly like Robot Factory.  (The fact that robots can be put to work building more robots is truly excellent.  Although I might make them 1/1s to avoid board stalls.)  

We also thought that "white, black, red, or green" should be replaced by "nonblue" for ease of reading, although I could see arguments in the Quirion Dryad direction.

All in all, this pitch had fine individual designs and reasonable implementations.  It wasn't a game-changer for Ekkremes after the previous round.  It's not clear that Sunburst + Twobrid is really enough to be the mechanical heart of a set, so there's a big open question yet to be resolved.


  1. I think the Sunburst mechanic can be used for a lot more interesting things than Twobrid so solving the distraction of those two could be solved by just dropping twobrid.

    I think operate is very cool but the onus to not create operate, attached, and unattached all to accomplish nothing that can't already be done with equip.

    The coolness of the word operate is so high that I wonder if there is a simpler way to do this without re-inventing equip and without creating attached and unattached as statuses of creatures. This is an alternative that works just like imprint does (though the imprint keyword doesn't actually mean anything special it's like morbid, so the new part here is that operate is not only more flavourful but adds a mana cost).

    Robot Factory 4
    Artifact (U)
    Operate 4 (Pay 4: Exile target creature you control. Operate only as a sorcery. When ~ leaves play, return all creatures exiled this way to their owners' hands).
    T: put a 0/1 colorless construct artifact creature token onto the battlefield for each creature imprinted on ~.

    1. While I think James' is the best of the attaching variety of operate executions, I'm also not convinced it's ideal choice. It's wordy, potentially confusing next to equipment and requires awkward inclusions like disoperate (which leads to funny things like the inability to put a creature into vehicle B without first removing it from vehicle A).

      The simplest solution is to simply use "Tap an untapped creature you control" and/or "Tap X untapped creatures you control" as a cost for some activated ability. The problem with simple, is it's not exciting. It wouldn't feel new and players wouldn't even identify it as a mechanic unless we slap an ability word on it.

      Trevor's solution has issues too (should you be able to gain 5 life and a 3/3 token from Thragtusk by making it operate a factory and trashing the factory?) but is definitely worth discussing: It feels very different from equipment. Your man isn't just sitting on top of the war machine he's operating, he's gone and disappeared inside it where he can do nothing but pull the levers. If most cards with operate will be concepted as buildings or large, enveloping machines and vehicles, it actually makes sense that your Goblin Warchief can't inspire the troops if they can't see him. It is strange (bad) that you can't get your creature back without smashing your own artifact. Maybe:

      Operate 4 (4: Exile target creature you control or put a creature exiled by ~ OTB under your control. Operate only as a sorcery.)

    2. My issue with (any version) of operate is that giving up a creature feels like SUCH a downside in Limited. If I'm willingly removing my creatures in Limited it should be worth it. I really like Robot Factory (agreed that they should be 1/1), but Power Plant feels like way too small a reward for operating. I think operating should provide much bigger upside, and on that it should be swingier/uncommon and above.

      TL;DR: Operate shouldn't be common.

    3. It is annoying that the Exile/Return versions of operate let you spam Thragtusk triggers. You could avoid that by phasing the creature out, but phasing is almost never a good idea.

      I did like how George Gone's version of Operate (Operate X - tap X untapped creatures you control: effect) lets you make 'worker' cards that care when you operate artifacts, like his Spit Shine Scholar (Whenever you operate machina, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card.), as well as cards that want to be operators, like Fallowsage from Lorwyn.

    4. I don't think we should be designing too heavily around Thragtusk. The "leaves play" part is supposed to be breakable. Though perhaps it's worth reducing the power of operate by somehow preventing ETB effects from triggering when creatures return. Can't see how to do that without being super clunky though. Perhaps the best way is to not worry about it and just never have cheap operate costs.

    5. I thought of a tap version of Operate that makes it free to disoperate a creature if the board state changes and you need that guy to attack or block in the future, but still feels very close the original concept of this submission.

      Operate COST (COST: Tap an untapped creature you control. It's operating this artifact as long as it's tapped. You may choose not to untap it during your untap step.)

  2. Should terraform be a may ability?

    1. Certainly. It'd be a bit frustrating to be forced into sacrificing a land if you didn't have any more basics in your deck.

    2. I'm not a fan of terraform at all. It's color-fixing, and that's always a good thing, but it's not mana-fixing or spell-fixing and it's a lot of effort (there's a major push to avoid extra shuffles wherever possible) for very little gain (changing the color of one land to another and thinning your deck by one land).

    3. As far as color/mana-fixing mechanics go (as opposed to individual cards cards), I think we have to allow for a certain amount of shuffling due to the nature of the game needs being filled (). Cycling being brought back wasn't so long ago, though it's not clear to me when they *really* started to be careful about the shuffling.

      Gatecreeper Vines (RTR), Evolving Wilds and Boundless Realms (both Magic 2013) seem to make it clear that even as you try to keep deck shuffling in control, you simply can't rely primarily on Mulch variants to provide your fixing/acceleration.

    4. It should certainly have been a may ability, no sense in forcing people to use the effect and shuffle when they don't need to.

      I wanted Terraform to be color-fixing that was small enough to be added as an incidental effect to other spells. One odd thing about the mechanic though is that it's probably best in decks with one main color and lots of splash lands (where you'll have excess lands of your main color), and worse in a straight five-color deck.

      If sunburst and/or twobrid stay, some kind of smoothing mechanic will be needed, but it doesn't have to be Terraform-- Basic Landcycling or Dig are potential options.

    5. Remind me, which one is dig?

      Also, are we ever going to get the point where we can have "Search the top five cards of your library, EFFECT, then put those cards on the bottom of your library in random order."

    6. Dig (so far) has basically been "Cascade for a Land, put it into your hand".

    7. Thanks Pasteur, that's what I meant, Dig from the Frontier submissions: Dig 2 (2, Discard this card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

      I like how fast it is to resolve cards with Dig or "Search the top five cards of your library, EFFECT...", but I would feel like such a chump if my bomb was in the top five cards and I had to put it on the bottom, never to be seen again. That bad feeling might be more salient to some types of players, and I think we have to be aware of it.

  3. I'm one of the folks arguing that sunburst and twobrid aren't diametrically opposed mechanics. Sunburst clearly tells you to play more colors, but I'm not convinced that twobrid tells you to play fewer colors.

    Consider Spectral Procession. It's better to cast spells cheaper, so everyone wants to cast it for WWW, which pushes you toward mono-white. The thing is that making the card hybrid isn't letting you cast a six-mana spell for three, it's letting you cast a mono-white spell with non-white mana.

    Twobrid is not a Constructed mechanic. Yes, it was put on Constructed-worthy cards in Shadowmoor because a large portion of the audience will deem a mechanic bad if it doesn't appear on any tournament-caliber cardes, but twobrid isn't what made Spectral Procession good.

    Twobrid is for Limited where it's almost impossible to make a mono-colored deck. "Damn, I opened this killer card but it takes WWW and my deck is only-half white. I'll usually only be able to cast it by turn six or seven. Wait, I can cast it for 2WW or 4W instead? I would totally pay 4W for three fliers!" Or even "I'm not running red at all, but I really need more removal. I can cast Flame Javelin for 6? Deal!"

    A spell that costs 2/C is strictly easier to cast than a spell that costs C. Again, yes, you would love to pay just C but twobrid is giving you options to play the card in a deck with more colors, not restricting you to a deck with less.

    All that said, Ari has a VERY good point that two mechanics that care about the colors of mana you spend is a bit much and we should really be focused on new things to do, rather than new ways to do old things.

    1. If we are to choose one or other other, I would personally prefer that sunburst be used on mono-color cards rather than artifacts, as James has it, and that twobrid be used only on artifacts, mainly for novelty. I find sunburst a bit more interesting, but could see either one going the distance.

    2. The Melvin in me really likes the deck-construction puzzles, especially in limited, from having sunburst and twobrid in the same set. Putting too much focus on casting costs with the mechanics does seem to be a problem though. While designing the booster, I had a really hard time coming up with cards that played well with sunburst or twobrid without calling out those mechanics specifically. My answer was cards that are better as splashes, like Wing Granter, but it shows the potential difficulty in creating compelling gameplay with these mechanics.

  4. I would also point out that outside of deck-construction and Limited-balancing value, twobrid also looks really cool!

  5. Ooh boy, alright, thought sorting:

    1. This flavor justification for Ekkremes is way, way better than anything we had before.

    2. Ari is entirely correct that a set all about setting up to cast your spells instead of casting them is unexciting.

    3. Ben N is 100% correct that losing creatures to operate feels terrible. Maybe instead of taking them out of combat we can tie it into combat:

    Operate--[COST]:Do X for each tapped creature you control.

    This still allows for costs that are tapping creatures, but also allows for mana costs on effects that get better because you attacked or activated the abilities of your utility creatures. There could also be sorcery speed restrictions or they could trigger like such:

    Operate--Whenever one or more creatures you control attacks, do X for each tapped creature you control.

    4. Shuffling sucks. What about replacing Terraform with:

    Terraform (Put a prism counter on target land. That land has "T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.")

    Yes, the fixing's really strong, but as far as casting sunburst spells it's no more potent than the current implementation. As for it being annoying to have counters on lands, you wouldn't really need them as long as you kept all of the rainbow lands in a separate pile.

    5. Not really a note for the set's design so much as this submission, but I really dislike Sunburst spells with XCC costs. Either the player understands how to build a mana base and this says "play five colors, but you're mana's going to be terrible." Or, they don't know how to build a mana base and so they try to splash double costed cards because they say Sunburst.

    6. Spelling out each color is messy. I imagine it was intended to exclude artifact creatures, but given that many of those are presently colored anyway...

  6. - I really like how both Twobrid and Terraform can help both multicolor decks and monocolor decks.

    - I'm one of the judges not opposed to mechanics pulling in opposite directions in the same set. However, I'm not sure what WotC's stance on such a system would be. It might help to list out the problems that would occur if two set themes pull in mechanically opposite directions, and see if those problems can be solved individually or are fundamentally wrong.

    Personally, I don't think sets are about "do this one mechanical thing" anymore like they used to be. While there are two main deckbuilding directions (colorful vs. monocolored), there is just one theme: the conflict between technological society and resurgent magic.

    - If there are two opposite directions, the more we make it obvious with flavor etc. the better. I really like how this pitch uses flavorful creature types such as Elementals and Ouphes for the mana faction. I'm not sure whether they are the exact creature types we should use or not, but figuring out what kind of techno-society exists and who the magical deviants? are would really help set a target to design mechanics and cards around for this set.

    - As someone has pointed out before, to give monocolor decks critical mass, the set's color distribution need to somehow support that. Maybe we need lots of colorless cards such as artifacts (without making it feel too much like Mirrodin) or a lot of traditional hybrid cards (without making it feel like Shadowmoore)?

    - This set really needs mechanics that aren't about costing, and it might help to freely brainstorm a ton of top-down mechanics about tinkering with mechas & contraptions, riding vehicles, operating machinery, etc.

    1. Chah, I don't know if you remember my Round 0 submission for a set with "hand size matters" as a theme. This whole discussion on twobrid versus sunburst reminds me a lot of that. In it were spells that wanted you to hold lots of cards, and others with hellbent that wanted you to have no cards in hand.

      Let me use that set concept to illustrate, since I thought out the whole color/mechanic breakdown. A similar thing could be done for Ekkremes.

      In my concept for "handsize matters," White had some helbent cards, along with spells that rewarded you for hoarding cards in hand. Blue rewarded you for hoarding cards in hand. Black rewarded you for burning through your hand quickly, but also had spells that rewarded you for just having more cards in hand than an opponent. Red rewarded you for burning through your hand quickly and having less cards than any other player. And green rewarded you for having more cards in hand than an opponent.

      In this example, Red and Green could be played on their own, but the other colors need to work together to maximize effect. Half of the white cards may not help you make a fun Hellbent deck, but splash green or red or black and you're good to go. This is fine for both Constructed and Limited.

      That's the key. There may be two directions to go, but we don't have to make people feel bad about choosing one or the other, and there's no reason they should have to play both mechanics in the same deck. Odyssey is the biggest example of doing the two directions thing badly, (flashback and threshold) but if it hadn't put both mechanics in every color, like it did, it could have been fixed.

    2. Putting cards that encourage a large hand size in the same set with cards that encourage a small hand size would make it look like an incongruent, unfocused set, as well as confuse players as to what to do.

      However, as I've said with Ekkremis, I'm on the side that it's ok to do opposite directions along an axis, as long as the whole set is clearly and loudly representing opposing factions on some planar conflict. The theme of the conflict would need to be really clear, such as "Magic vs Technology." If there is a strong theme that makes it obvious why one faction wants a large hand size while another faction wants a small hand size, and every card oozes with the flavor of that conflict, the duality itself might be ok.

      However, I don't think Handsize Matters is a good area to work with regardless of whether there's two opposite directions within that theme or just one, because it creates bad tension. Mechanics shouldn't make you feel bad about casting spells (and reducing your hand size). On the opposite end, players often feel stressed in environments where it's strategically correct to recklessly cast spells until you're empty-handed. Players usually want to hold on to just a few cards for insurance, or wait for the best time to cast a spell.

      Also, I feel that it would be a strain to have to track both players' hand sizes at all times, especially with effects that care about who has the larger hand size. Even though good players should track hand count for the sake of strategy anyways, it shouldn't be mandatory.

      In the case that there are two opposite directions in a set, I believe both directions should be in every color. Otherwise, the color combinations you could play would be too limited. Magic is best when you have freedom to choose from a wide range of color combinations.

      One of the reasons I'm fine with Monocolor vs. Multicolor is that it's probably one of the very few ways to do a Monocolor themed set - to pair it with a Multicolor theme. Otherwise, you only get 5 main archetypes - a mono color deck of each color. There's an actual reason why you would want to put a Multicolor theme into a Monocolor set, and it's different from randomly pitting a "large graveyard matters" faction vs. a "small graveyard matters" faction (for example) just for the heck of it.

      Also, the opposing directions in Ekkremis are only about different ways to build your deck. Once the game starts, you don't have so much tension about whether you should do something or not, you don't have tension such as "should I Flashback a spell and deny myself Threshold?"

      Also, there's a large overlap of tools that both sides can use like Terraform and Twobrid; it's not like "OK, I chose this path, now I can only use cards from half of the set and the other half of the set doesn't belong in my deck." But with some themes like "small hand size matters vs. large hand size matters" there won't be as much room for overlap cards.

      I've said that mechanics like Terraform and Twobrid are mostly mechanics concerning how you build your deck, and actually that is a problem in itself. The set is going to need some additional mechanics that allow you to do things within the game that you've never done before, rather than just allow you to draft or construct decks in new ways. However, in my mind, that's a separate problem from having two opposite deck-building directions. For the reasons I stated above, I think it's ok to have two opposite directions in Ekkremis's case.

    3. Chah, I’m going to number my replies because you make a lot of good points I’d like to comment on.

      1.) Who would be confused by seeing large hand size and small hand size cards in a set? New players? Limited players? Veteran players? Competitive players? New Acquisition players? I’ll call cards like those (or twobrid cards and sunburst cards) Indicator cards. Indicator cards tell you what to expect from a set in an open and direct way. And focused design makes those indicator cards feel organized and thought out. If you grab a strong indicator card in a draft, you should be able to follow that line of indication to the end and discover that you have two or so colors of cards in your pile. I’ll get into that later.

      2.) You have a lot of concerns about the feasibility of “hand size matters” as a theme, but that doesn’t really matter, it was just an example of how you could diversify the use of opposing themes. My pride as an Amateur Designer compels me though to point out that I thought of these things already for my design and felt confident the theme could work well in a single large set.

      3.) “Magic is best when you have the freedom to choose from a wide range of color combinations.” In a macro sense, I can agree with this, but from set to set, I think this philosophy is a mistake. I think R&D is most directly successful when it guides players to a series of options it has developed for. Remember when the Vivid lands made 5-color control possible? Cruel Ultimatums and Broodmate Dragons were getting played in the same deck. R&D hadn’t considered how making manabases so wide open would undermine the format it had developed. They were trying to make 2-color tribal decks possible. We should be creating options for players yes, but individual mechanical directions should be very specifically directed. It makes for a better tuned metagame. We should make building a deck a relatively easy, direct process, while playing the deck can still be skill-intensive and challenging.

      4.) Tools that both sides can use are good, but can also be bad because everyone ends up using them. That impacts Limited (off-color Signets in the first Ravnica block,) and adds homogeny to constructed (every deck has 4x whatever card.) Terraform is a great mechanic for both multi and mono color themes, but the cards that use it should be distinct indicators for one direction or another to avoid those bad effects. Like a terraforming Corrupt that the multicolor player won’t steal in Limited.

      5.) Having two factions with flavor and mechanic distinctions can work well, as we saw in Scars of Mirrodin. And luckily Magic has a lot of ways to tell players that a card belongs to one faction or another, so I think we could be very successful once we develop each faction. We’ll have naming conventions, mana costs, supertypes, card types and subtypes, watermarks, and mechanical identities to play with if we want. But I definitely think it’s doable.

  7. Purely academic, but…
    A monocolor set doesn't mean there are only five archetypes:

    First, in the same way it's possible to draft an aggressive Golgari deck instead of the usual midrange variety, I'm sure a good team could bake in at least two archetypes per color in a strictly monocolor set.

    Secondly, there are multiple executions for a set that pushes you to play just one basic land type in your deck:

    Artifacts: Both Mirrodin and Scars made monocolor decks much more feasible not be adding more monocolor cards, but by adding colorless cards that could fill out an otherwise lacking monocolored deck.

    Hybrid: Though Shadowmoor looks like a multicolor set on the face, it's the closest we've come to a Limited environment that really pushed monocolor decks. Hybrid effectively increases the pool of cards available for a single color by 2/5ths (or 4/5ths if you're not sticking to ally colors—which you are). Interestingly, I wouldn't make the same argument about Shadowmoor-Eventide where you could still build monocolor, but why would you?

    Twobrid: While this mechanic is obviously halfway between colorless and hybrid, it also affects gameplay as such: You've got more cards that can be played in decks that otherwise couldn't cast them. It occurs to me only now that a set that features twobrid heavily should also focus on colorless mana production and acceleration.

    Pure/Imperiosaur: There's some benefit in the set that rewards players for playing fewer colors but doesn't require it. The players who limit their options by following this route will be rewarded with power, but the other players will forego that for the benefits of a multicolor deck, each set drawing from 1/3 of the set the other cares nothing about.

    1. @Jay
      I disagree with the first half: An environment that only pits mono-color decks against each other would be terribly monotonous. Each deck would only have a narrow band of effects compared to two-color decks. I don't think playing up the difference between fast and slow decks is enough to offset that monotony.

      If it's a strictly mono-color deck, sealed deck building would be stupid: Pick your best color. Pick the best cards of that color.

      Drafting would be a swingy all-or-nothing affair too. This isn't like Return to Ravnica where you can switch just one of your colors to sidle into an adjacent guild.

      Except for a few raving fans of mono-color decks, I don't think you or most other players would enjoy being shoehorned into mono-color every time. A mono-color set has to be a set that also features good non-mono options.

      You seem to be addressing that in the second part, but I'm not sure what you're trying to tell me with the second part.

      I've already mentioned that tools such as Hybrid, Twobird, and high artifact count can be used to give mono-color decks a critical mass of cards to work with. I've also already said that I like those tools because they're useful for other non-mono decks as well. I don't think we're in disagreement that these are some good enablers for mono-color while leaving room for other styles.

      What exactly are you trying to point out with these examples? You seem to be saying, "See, you can have a set with these mechanics that isn't just about mono-color." But how is that a counterargument to what I'm saying? I've said that the set should have both the mono-color and multicolor paths available, and that I believe it can be done.

    2. (...cont @Jay)
      A question I wanted to raise is, how much incentive should we have for mono-color play? By incentive, I mean mechanics like Chroma, or cards like Spire Barrage, Rabble of Kithkin, etc. that reward you for being mono-color.

      For example, Mirrodin had lots of artifacts so it made it possible to draft a mono color deck if you wanted to, but most of the time there was no reason in particular to do so. I wouldn't call Mirrodin a mono-color themed set.

      Then Darksteel provided some incentives for mono color with Affinity for basic land types. With that, mono color did become a theme, albeit a minor one.

      Do we push the rewards for mono-color far enough so that it's always correct to go mono-color? Some people have suggested that in their pitches.

      In the case that we don't, how do we make sure both mono and multi-color decks are justified?

      Do we provide strong incentive cards for both styles?

      Or do we make both style viable just by keeping the rewards for mono-color relatively modest, like Darksteel?

      My stance is that we provide incentive cards for both styles, which happens to be the approach taken in Shadowmoor. The set has cards like Kithkin Rabble that reward mono-color play, but it also has cards like Thistledown Duo that reward two-color play. You aren's stuck with just a few mono-color options, there is variety in the things you can do.

      I'm not saying we have to do it just because Shadowmoor did it. But I really don't understand why you think Shadowmoor is a counterexample to what I've been saying.

      Another style is to incentivize mono-color only mildly. This could diversify decks, because there's always a natural pull to try to play at least two colors if able, even without incentives in that direction (which seems to be what you're saying with the Imperiosaur example). If the rewards for mono-color are mild, there could be a balance between mono-color decks and non-mono decks.

      However, in that case I'm not sure mono-color would feel like a major theme. It definitely wouldn't feel like mono-color vs. non-mono. That's fine, but we would need to come up with another theme for the set that serves as the set's identity.

      I think that if we dial up the rewards for both mono and multi (2+) color, and if we could play up the flavor of this conflict- how some factions are accepting the resurgence of mana while other factions are rejecting it- it could be a major identity of the set. (Although it would be a legit question as to how flavorful we can make that.)

      As for just pushing mono-color without also incentivizing some kind of multi-color (at least 2-color), I think that's a bad idea for the reasons I stated. However, some possible counterarguments to what I've said so far that I can think of are:

      - We could just incentivize having a "main color," while making sure not to punish players for having a "minor color" that's slightly bigger than a splash. That would retain deck diversity. (Or even theoretically increase it, because in that case a Br deck would be somewhat different from a Rb deck.)

      - Like Havelock said, we could encourage a theme that involves playing with multicolor, without actually making that theme explicitly about playing multiple colors. I don't know exactly what, but it could be any linear theme that straddles multiple colors.

    3. I'm not sure why you think I'm arguing against you, Chah. Most of what I said clearly aligns with what you've said and was meant in support of it. I'll address the one exception first:

      I agree that a set forcing mono-colored play would necessarily be less diverse than any other kind, but it would be an uninspired dev team that couldn't find a way to make 10 valid draft archetypes for such a set. I readily concede that's not enough to carry a large set in this age of modern development, I just don't think it would really be a 5-deck format.

      Now onto the rest where I completely agree.

      If a set were to have a major mono-color theme, it would almost certainly be best accompanied by a non-mono-color theme. I'm being precise here to distinguish between the default "play two colors" direction most sets give and the "play three or more colors" direction sets marketed as 'multicolor' usually offer; I don't know which is the better pair for mono-color.

      Shadowmoor/Eventide very much did the single-color / many-color thing and in a satisfying way. That simultaneously proves that's a valid path and expends the most obvious route through it.

      We've never had a mono-color themed set (which is why this possibility is enticing); Mirrodin, Scars and Shadowmoor are simply the closest we've come to being able to regularly build mono-color decks in Limited.

      We won't know until we start designing and testing in earnest, but I also suspect that we want to make strong incentives for both mono-color and non-mono-color decks and fill the gap between them with cards that work well [enough] in either.

      You raise an excellent point that it would be difficult to make monocolor obviously the set's theme. This merits a clarification. We've been using 'theme' in this discussion in the literary sense and applying it to the mechanical identity of the set. Whenever I've said 'monocolor theme', I've meant "a major identity of the mechanics that define how the set plays" as opposed to "the story and setting of the world." While we will have to make cards that support monocolor play exciting enough to help sell the set when they're previewed, we very much don't pitch Ekkremes to the public as "The Monocolor Set" but as instead as the resurgence of mana giving the rebellion a chance against their technocratic opppressors… as represented on the cards by non-mono-color vs mono.

      I would love to see a set where 2-3 drafters per table go strictly mono-color, 3-4 go standard two-color or else mono-color with a splash, and 2-3 go three+ color.

      To the very last point, yes: The game has enough incentive to play more than one color that we don't have to put sunburst, domain or gold cards into the set to make two-color play a reasonable or interesting choice. That's not an argument against any of those things (beyond the global design principle of less-is-more) and I certainly wouldn't design the set without trying them out.

  8. Has anyone reconciled that Sunburst was changed from a Keyword in this submission to an ability word? You can't have an ability word and keyword with the same name, so would all the original Sunburst cards get errated or would our mechanic get a tweaked name (like Starburst)?

    1. They have not. Good point.

      While Sunburst does have different definitions on different card types, the creature definition is already set: Sunburst (This enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it.)

      I would be fine with making a similar ability word with a similar name, like Starburst, provided we don't also use Sunburst. That would be confusing. I'd also be fine with using Sunburst and making cards like these without the ability word.

    2. I've mentioned it before, but it looks like I didn't say so in this submission. My intention is to replace the keyword Sunburst with an ability word, just like Wizards did with Threshold. It works with all existing cards.

  9. I've been thinking about other mechanics for Ekkremes, and came up with one for the resistance group that I posted on the wiki:

    Rebel Shieldcrafter 1W
    Creature - Human Rebel
    Recruit (you may pay an additional 1 to cast each creature spell. If you do, that creature enters the battlefield with a resistance counter and is a rebel in addition to its other types)
    Other Rebels you control get +0/+1

    Recruit would be in all five colors (like Slivers and Allys), and Recruiters would provide small sliver-like bonuses to your other rebels. I'm not sure about the templating, but it's supposed to work well with Sunburst, helping you to max out the sunburst effect for creatures with CMC < 5.

    1. Very interesting. Would there be non-recruiter rebels?

    2. This mechanic does go well with Sunburst, though it still focuses on mana and doesn't exactly scream cool (though rebels might). If they entered with +1/+1 counters it could also stack nicely, ala Extort. It's also an ability that can go on non-creature artifacts, which is cool.

    3. Rebel Shieldcrafter 1W
      Creature - Human Rebel
      Recruit (You may put a -1/-1 counter on creatures you control as they ETB. If you do, they are Rebels in addition to their other types.)
      Other Rebels you control get +0/+2.

    4. Using a counter that means something as the memory aid (+1/+1 or -1/-1 counters) seems like a better solution. I do like how -1/-1 counters let you amp up the bonus effect accordingly, making the cards play better with "natural" rebels. It's too bad that it precludes the use of +1/+1 counters in the set, but we could get around that with slightly more clunky Sunburst cards:

      Shackle Breaker 2R
      Creature - Minotaur Warrior
      ~ enters the battlefield with three -1/-1 counters.
      Sunburst - ~ enters the battlefield with one fewer -1/-1 counter for each color of mana spent to cast it.

      One of the GDS2 entries had a Prison world that used -1/-1 counters as chains or shackles, and it's possible Ekkremes could move in that direction, but I'm not convinced.

    5. +1/+1 counter Recruit is all upside and, like extort, works as a curve-smoothing mechanic and improves your late game topdecks.

      Rebel Shieldcrafter 1W
      Creature - Human Rebel
      Recruit 2 (Each creature you control enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it and is a rebel in addition to its other types if you pay an additional 2 to cast it.)
      Other Rebels you control get +0/+1

      Or, instead of messing around with the Rebel type, they could just grant effects to other creatures with +1/+1 counters, like Bramblewood Paragon.

    6. Yeah, the problem with my idea is that players only like -1/-1 counters on their opponents' creatures. Even if being a rebel is a net plus, players won't enjoy making their creatures weaker.

      I was trying to address Zachariah's point that Recruit was yet another cost-matters mechanic, but as you point out, James, it does combo with Sunburst. For that reason, I like your original idea. If we had to avoid additional cost mechanics:

      Rebel Shieldcrafter WW
      Creature - Human Rebel
      2, T: Put a +1/+1 counter on target non-Rebel creature. It becomes a Rebel in addition to its other types.
      Other Rebels you control get +0/+1