Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Suvnica Week 8 Review, Part 1: Tezzi Guild Keywords

Alright alright alright alright. Lesson learned. No more than one guild keyword challenge per week. 75 new cards are sitting in the Suvnica file. Let's check out the mechanics we came up with this week, starting with Suvnica's class clowns.

Ground Rules

Partially because our focus has shifted in a different direction than the early weeks, and partially because of the sheer volume of submissions, I'm not going to be reviewing each and every card. Also, there was a lot of iterative design going on here, with minor variations on a theme for a bunch of the proposed keywords. Whenever a mechanic was slightly changed, I changed the name slightly so its easier to reference. Finally, if mechanics were offered without examples, I threw together the easiest example at common I could think of, typically a shock variant. I make no promises about the quality of my examples for other people's mechanics.

Zefferal's Unveil

lpaulsen was the first to take up the challenge to address the combat timing and substitution problems I was running into on my first iteration of the keyword. He came up with this:

This is a fantastic solution. Instead of swapping the card in hand the mid-combat creature, just use a copy effect. That said, there are some major issues with it. First of all, keywords really don't want to be activated abilities, although its less problematic when the activation occurs from zones not named Battlefield. Also, copying at common is a major problem under NWO. Even if we wanted to spend complexity points here, I feel like the way temporary copying works within the layer system is going to confuse the bajeezus out of players, myself included. On a creature like this, it can also lead to some very repetitive game play, which is not the kind of thing that {U}{R} wants.

Still, it really captures that "trick" feel that Tezzi is aiming for.

Jules expanded on Unveiled with a few of his own cards.

The idea being that we can address some of the NWO concerns by limiting the common Unveileders to Vanilla and French Vanilla.

The forms are really cool, and even if Unveiled doesn't make the eventual hypothetical cut, I could see these as being an interesting rare cycle. Even with simple creatures though, there are major NWO problems at common with temporary copying of things and the layer system. It may be able to work, and I'd be willing to playtest it if we ever get to that point.

Jay Treat offered another variation on Unveil, allowing the same trick but for spells on the stack:

This is a cool trick in theory, but it may end up being largely irrelevant in practice. The most interesting thing I can think of regarding it is using it after your opponent responds to a targeted spell by sacrificing the target or something, then pulling a switcheroo.

Circeus suggested we add functionality by giving a bonus if it was cast for the Unveiling cost. When I renamed the keywords, this led to some interesting grammatical problems.

Inanimate's Presto

Inanimate offered the Presto keyword. I threw together a quick example.

That wall of reminder text is going to keep anything other than French Vanilla Presto creatures from showing up at common. The effect is to store the mana in the creature until it hits, then you can get a quick free spell in. Unfortunately, unless that spell is going to win you the game then and there, the mechanic loses a lot of its oomph.

Jay Treat modified the mechanic so it doesn't bounce the creature as a part of the effect. This makes it much more interesting, and possibly moves it from not very good to potentially broken.

Jay's other modification to Presto gives a creature an optional built-in rescue ability when playing instants or sorceries. On its own, its mostly downside, but with some of {U}{R}'s ETB abilities, it can get quickly out of hand.

I offered another modification to Presto, this one giving you free mana reduction for instants and sorceries after dealing combat damage. My big concern with this one is that the tension it creates between wanting to run Prestorm creatures and lots of high-mana non-permanents may be too high. Feedback in the comments would be appreciated.

Jules' Trick

This is one of the mechanics I initially considered myself. The biggest problem with the mechanic is figuring out how much value it adds to cards you would prefer to just be instants in the first place.

Havelock offered a slight modification to the mechanic. Here's the example of it I drew up.

If the cost is always reduced and the target always limited, then we drop the lost versatility and it feels more like a bonus way of casting. That said, it's still a very narrow mechanic, and I'm not sure its exciting enough on its own to be the marquee mechanic for Tezzi

Lobster667's Chain

Lobster667 designed a mechanic, reminiscient of storm, that lets you followup another spell with it by reducing the mana cost.

Because it wants to be a spell keyword (so you are able to plan your chains better), he had some token makers.

I love this last card. It's basically why I play Magic.

Jay Treat pointed out that a mechanic shouldn't be named chain and not allow multiple cards to chain off of a spell. I agree. If it ends up unbalanced, we can always redevelop it as necessary.

Jay also offered a few other variants on the idea.

This version reduces spell costs for the rest of the turn after the initial investment. Multiple chains can stack your mana reducers, making for an epic burst of spells.

Jay's other chain modification adds a cantrip to lesser costing spells, refilling your hand if you go with a burst strategy. I'm not sure that this is a broad enough mechanic even for a guild keyword, but it might make a good enabler card or two within the guild.

Jay Treat's Unpredictable

Jay actually offered four different variants for the Unpredictable mechanic

The first one is a mechanic with way too much reminder text to be printable at common, but it can either be that spell or the next spell it digs out from your library with the same CMC. That could be a very interesting mechanic, but I can't see this working at common unless someone can think of a different way to template that reminder text.

This one's a little better, simply looking at the top three instead of digging as deep as it takes to find something. The reminder text needs to be updated to tell you what to to do with those revealed cards. This also doesn't kill as much variance, since your chance of hitting the only other CMC=3 card in your deck is drastically reduced when you're only looking at three cards.

This option strays a little further into wonkyville, and back to further reducing variance.

This may be a little broken, as the top card of your library is probably the easiest to control, but I think it's probably the cleanest and most grockable version. Requires playtesting and development.

Circeus' Trailblaze

Cerceus wanted to rename this mechanic Encore, but others had already started modifying the mechanic and using that name, so it got saddled with trailblaze. There are worse fates.

Spells that reward you for playing them as followups. Very easy to get, very versatile mechanic.

As an alternative to this keyword, Circeus offered this:

Another keyword that turns your creatures into mana batteries. I like the concept, but keywords shouldn't be activated abilities, and they really shouldn't be two separate abilities wrapped into one keyword.

Jay Treat, because he likes making sure I keep busy, was inspired by the suggestion of encore as a replacement name for Trailblaze to try some storm variants.

This seems like it could be very degenerate (and fun!) The fix was to make sure that you still had to pay for copies.

I could absolutely see this as being an Izzet keyword. A little less so for the Tezzi, since it doesn't have that same Trick flavor that other keywords were aiming for.

The Cozen's Transfix

Finally, The Cozen offered this little doozy. 

The general idea is that your active spell can become something else, which was a common riff among the keywords in this challenge. It seems a high cost to make it uncounterable (3 mana and a card), but it allows you to access spells you may not otherwise have the mana for. It may also play hell with the targeting system.

Circeus offered an alternative spell version of transmute, this one turning creatures into spells.

Like a lot of offered keywords, I could see this working as a non-keyworded mechanic on two or three cards in the set, but I don't know that its broad enough to matter as a keyword showing up on ten or fifteen cards in the block.


That's it for the Tezzi. Next up is the Zhavi.



  1. A few notes:

    I don't think things with Unveiled and variants can say "only once per turn" because you could have multiple copies of the card in your hand, and I don't think the rules can track which one you have used. I think probably to work, the mechanic has to have you discard the card when you use it. Modulo tweaking, this is my favorite of the mechanics in today's list.

    Door #2 is absolutely bonkers. It will lead to some games that are just stupid where turn 3 you go to kill something and accidentally turn up your 8 mana bomb. There is a reason Unexpected Results is rare! I could see it if there was some restriction on the cost like "costing at most one more" or something.

    Perhaps I am missing something, but why would anyone ever play Translightning Weird, or any card with that mechanic?

    1. How about "you can use it to cast (say) Essence Harvest at instant speed without needing black mana in the deck"? It was kind of a thought experiment (it basically transfigures into a spell in your hand).

    2. More interestingly, it will allow you to tap a blocker that would be destroyed anyway and use it to cast a spell while you're tapped out of mana.

    3. Seems like it would make a neat one off Johnny rare, I just have a hard time imagining this wanting to show up at common and in draft.

      Maybe some sort of Trinket Mage for instants/sorceries? Or like a keyworded Augur of Bolas?

  2. Lucky Goblin 2R
    Creature-Goblin (common)
    Unstable RRRRR (When you cast ~, look at the top card of your library. If it costs RRRRR or less, you may sacrifice ~ to cast that card without paying its mana cost.)

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