Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Suvnica Week 8 Review, Part 2: Zhavi Guild Keywords

The Zhavi keywords spawned an interesting debate on counter types, but a lot of people played in other mechanical space. Let's see what everyone came up with:

Zefferal's Condemn

Aura suggested that we turn condemn into an action word and rename it hex, as that is easily more grockable.

Aura played around in territory I avoided. Simply hexing something doesn't mean anything on its own - hex counters don't have any inherent mechanical meaning. But the more cards that care about it, the more powerful and simple hex as an action word becomes. Unfortunately, I think this implementation makes it an even more parasitic mechanic. I tried to mitigate some of the pacifism by making sure that every card that condemned (or hexed) penalized hexed creatures in some way.

Aura also started playing with hex on non-creatures. I like this implementation a lot.

Aura made a ton of cool examples, which bolsters my belief that hex/condemn is a cool mechanic. The NWO/counter debate needs more discussion and fleshing out, but even if this (at least in this form) isn't worth the +1/+1 counter cost to the block as a whole, I'm sure that the condemn/hex mechanic can find a good home somewhere else.

Jay Treat also came up with a couple of non-permanents to support the Hex mechanic.

lpaulsen's Police

lpaulsen came up the Police ability word, playing up their role as enforcers of the guildpact. 

This mechanic creates a strong control element on discouraging attacks, something both Black and White have done in the past.

The biggest concern I have with the mechanic is that if you have two or three creatures with Police on the board, your opponent is really going to want to avoid attacking you. Completely discouraging attacks is something that the game is trying to stay away from, as it leads to board stall and generally unfun environments. Playtesting would tell us whether Police is a fun mechanic or one too frequently leads to bad board states.

I like the spell implementation, but it could easily work as entirely separate keyword.

Lobster667's Vindication

Vindication rewards you for playing up the assassination angle of the Zhavi. 


This is meant to cause a board wipe. I kind of wish it just said Damnation instead of having a sequence of triggers. First of all, it would be cleaner. It also makes a major difference on MTGO, where having sequential triggers can be a pain in the butt (see anything involving storm). It matters in corner cases of pro:black etc., but I don't think that should ruin an otherwise elegant design.

Jules came up with a similar mechanic, which plays more into white's revenge-based penalties.

It definitely moves us closer to White's territory, but it's much more narrow as a mechanic. It wants you to be more combat oriented, something that isn't necessarily in line with where the Zhavi want to be. I would like to playtest it to see how often it actually triggers.

Jay Treat's Dictate

Jay wanted to play up the guild's desire to maintain caste/guild boundaries by penalizing playing 3 colors. This captures the feel of that, but I'm skeptical that an entire mechanic that hoses multicolor play in a multicolor block is going to be fair and balanced. That said, if any guild is going to do it, it's going to be Zhavi (See Guardian and Enemy of the Guildpact from Dissension)

Jay raised a fair point that enforcement of guild boundaries is the major flavors point that is being pushed in all Zhavi descriptions, and if the mechanic can't capture that, then maybe we should be pushing some other aspect of the guild as their defining characteristic. I definitely hear the argument, but I think a number of mechanics offered have shown the desire to punish and control, without having to take the flavor characteristic as literally. 

The Cozen's Vendetta

...which would be a good name for a band. 

Vendetta punishes your opponent for hitting you, which has a very {W}{B} feel. It does this by reducing mana costs, which is significantly less {W}{B}. It could work, but that's not among their respective standard toolboxes, Rakdos 2.0 notwithstanding.

I really like this first example, whose life gain benefit is inversely proportional to its use as a comeback card. The loss of potential life gain doesn't matter when you can drop a 4/4 for 2 or 3 (especially since the life that you do gain back mitigates the damage that made the card cheaper in the first place)

My big concern is with the memory issues of tracking life lost over multiple turns. I think that kind of tracking really fights against NWO. As a modification, I came up with this bad example.

This gets rid of the memory issues by creating a triggered ability on getting hit. 


That's it for the first two keywords. The next design challenge will be posted soon.



    1. Could you de-parasitize Hex by having the check condition be "with a counter on it", any type? No impact on in-block Limited since you can't use other counters there anyways.

      1. It still has the problem of tracking multiple types of counters. It does make it a little cleaner though (like Unleash, for example).

    2. "This captures the feel of that, but I'm skeptical that an entire mechanic that hoses multicolor play in a multicolor block is going to be fair and balanced."

      I fail to see the problem with that. After all, a guild block should incentivize players to choose color pairs rather than merely encouraging them to play all the colors they can!

      1. Yeah, but in draft, especially when the set follows a 4-3-3 guild distribution (as we are), you're going to need to be in at least three colors. And if one guild's main shtick is to punish you for that, that guild is going to be a very popular pick in the third pack of block draft.

    3. Police is just too absurdly powerful. I'm pretty sure many of the examples shown would have to be toned down to cipher-like levels.

      I like Hex the best. I guess it depends if the Suvnica project comes up with other counter-based mechanics.

      1. I think police would be okay if it were two or more creatures. I might make it more like morbid rather than an activated ability, but the idea is sound, in-color and very flavorful.

      2. Police does discourage creature battles which slows the game down, encourages stalls, and likely will often lead to boards where at least one player doesn't want to attack into a few creatures with police since it will be a massive blowout. I'm also generally more of a fan of mechanics that let you do cool things with your cards than ones which punish the opponent for trying to do cool things with theirs.

    4. Here's a cool mechanic by a designer named Detektor in the You Make the Card forum.


      Among other things, he's really good at coming up with card text that doesn't look like any previous text.

      He's given me permission to propose the mechanic here.

      The mechanic would be like this:

      Zhavi Vigilante {1}{W}
      Creature - Human Assassin
      Dealing damage to you is against the law.
      Dark justice — Whenever a creature an opponent controls breaks the law, you may have an Assassin you control fight that creature.

      Zhavi Roadwatcher {3}{W}{B}
      Creature - Angel Assassin
      Attacking or blocking with another creature is against the law.
      Dark justice — Whenever a creature an opponent controls breaks the law, that creature gets -2/-0 until end of turn.

      Zhavi Judge {4}{B}
      Creature - Human Assassin
      When ~ enters the battlefield, choose one — Casting instants or sorceries are against the law; casting artifacts and enchantments are against the law; or casting creatures are against the law.
      Dark justice — Whenever an opponent breaks the law, that player discards a card and you draw a card.

      1. Neat idea.

        Can we have commons that just set laws or just set justice? Always doing both is going to lead to some mighty crowded text boxes.

        I also don't want to see Judge letting you choose because it'll be hard enough to remember what all the current laws are without unprinted choices floating in the aether.

        I'm also not sure both creatures and players will be able to break the law. It probably has to be one or the other.

      2. I like this a lot. My biggest concern is with how many different trigger conditions are too many to keep track of. Having a lot does a good job of giving the Zhavi the proper feel, but might not actually be fun. I'd like to limit it to at most two laws at common (though there could be multiple commons caring about each). The other issue is triggering order. Asking players to routinely stack their triggers is likely too much, so we'd have to be careful to make sure it rarely mattered what order they happened in. Finally, while it makes sense for both creatures and players to be able to break the law, keeping track of which ones trigger seems like a pain. I'd rather lose some functionality and make only one or the other into potential criminals.

      3. I could've sworn I commented on this too...

    5. That's very cool. I'll try to add that to the file over the weekend. It is a lot of new rules to learn, but highly grokable.