Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CCDD 071713—Psi-Stalker

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/17/2013 - I'm traveling through Sunday, so I scheduled this early. Psionic is based on some ideas tossed around this year. Read the card and then I'll discuss the keyword some more.

Two important points. First, it doesn't matter* if the creatures fighting Psi-Stalker are psionic or not, every creature in a psionic fights can be pumped up. Second, the choice of how much to pump is simultaneous. In other words, both players decide how much they're pumping and then both choices are revealed. That's a bit of a hassle, but you avoid the turn-based method where the second player safely chooses X+1 (where X is the first player's choice) or 0.

*Actually, it does matter when 2+ psionic creatures tangle, because each of them will trigger separately, allowing two or more rounds of this per fight. Which leads to the next point, how do players decide how much to pay?

Suppose both our hands are empty, I have Psi-Stalker and you have a 4/4 Rhino, I attack and you block. If we're both at 4 life, neither of us can afford to lose our creature, so we both pay 3. If either of us has just 1 more life, we'll pay that and win (in which case the other player can pay 0. [But you might guess they'll pay 0 and pay 1. {It's a mind game. That's good.}]). What if we're both at 20? Does it make sense to pay 6? 8? 12? There probably needs to be a cap or something.

This seems completely unprintable right now. I'm curious to see if you all can tweak / overhaul it into something more usable. Mainly, players should have some intuition how much to pay.


  1. I would probably not keyword it...
    Still, my take on it would probably involve removing cards from the top of your library.
    Either way, a) the creatures should not be able to get trample and b) you should not be able to cast soul's fire or a similar spell to kill off your opponent through this ability, it would feel too much like channel into fireball.

  2. I got excited thinking this would be a riff on my Psionics #weekendartchallenge submission a few weeks ago. This is a much more complex idea, but still very fun to think about. I have some suggestions.

    I agree there should be a cap on the life payment. First it makes it easier for players to figure out how to use the card, but second, it lets us make splashy Uncommons and Rares with higher possible life limits. Because with Trample, this ability can be silly.

    I also think it should only trigger off of one-on-one combat. It cleans up the reminder text significantly, with little loss of complexity. Flavorfully, it makes sense that a psionic can only focus on one mind at a time. I’m not sure if each player chooses one creature or if it only triggers off one creature engaging in combat. I like that second one more for simplicity. As an attacker I have a better idea what to expect, and as a blocker I can control when Psionics becomes active. Here’s Jay’s concept, with those changes:

    Psionic N (Whenever this engages a creature in combat, you and that creature’s controller simultaneously pay up to N life. Each creature gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the amount of life paid for it.)

    One thing I discovered while playing around with this, is that “blocks or becomes blocked by a creature” could be shorthanded if we create the action word engage. Check out some cards with the updated wording:

    Brushwagg: Whenever this engages a creature in combat, it gets -2/+2 until end of turn.

    Cockatrice: Whenever Cockatrice engages a non-Wall creature in combat, destroy that creature at end of combat.

    Dwarven Soldier: Whenever Dwarven Soldier engages one or more Orcs in combat, it gets +0/+2 until end of turn.

    Goblin Flotilla: At the beginning of each combat, unless you pay R, whenever Goblin Flotilla engages a creature in combat this turn, that creature gains first strike until end of turn.

    Indebted Samurai: Bushido 1 (When this engages a creature in combat, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

    No Quarter: Whenever a creature engages a creature with lesser power in combat, destroy the creature with lesser power.

    Sisters of Stone Death: BG: Exile target creature engaged in combat with Sisters of Stone Death.

    Spitting Slug: Whenever Spitting Slug engages a creature in combat, you may pay 1G. If you do, Spitting Slug gains first strike until end of turn. Otherwise, each creature engaged in combat with Spitting Slug gains first strike until end of turn.

    Wooden Stake: Whenever equipped creature engages a Vampire in combat, destroy that creature. It can't be regenerated.

    1. nice!~
      it's intuitive and flavorful! this is a great idea, if only this were actually part of the game...
      I'm going to start using this terminology when referring to mechanics like this in the future, thanks.

    2. Would Fight to the Death read "Destroy all creatures engaged in combat"?

      Part of me wants to fold the words "in combat" into the engage term itself, since it would never appear without them; but it probably reads cleaner with them than without them.

  3. How about...

    Psionic (This creature's power and toughness are each equal to your life total minus the highest life total among your opponents.)

    I don't think that's really necessary to keyword. Fluctuating P/T is always going to be a problem if you have to recalculate it every single combat, particularly if it's supposed to be on multiple cards and each of those cards can fluctuate independently and differently. Two creatures with Psionic in battle is a headache not worth contemplating.

  4. this mechanic leads under most situations paying all their life very early in a game, artificially shortening the game. especially when this is coupled with trample it removes the opponent's ability to just pay nothing and let their creature die. the mechanic does function better when it comes down to the punches, but is very hard to use before that when the choices are to vast.
    the best thing I can think is to remove the "game" of the mechanic, which is what make it hard to grok. the way I'd do this is I'd just staple hatred to a guy, but limit it to only when it becomes blocked. it would then only need to cost like 1,000,000 mana (more like 5-6) to make up for the fact that it's totally broken with any form of trample. this would make it hard to keyword, but it could be cool for a rare in some set.

    also the name of the mechanic should be either "cold war" "arms race" or "MAD" because... you know, the only way to not lose is to not play (the card).

  5. How about something like this?

    Bloodbond (Pay X life: This blocked creature or a creature it's blocked by gets +X/+X until end of turn. Any player may activate this ability.)

    This makes it less of a guessing game and more of a bidding game (and doesn't trigger when blocking), but I find it a lot simpler and more intuitive. A cap for the ability is probably necessary, but I'm not sure how to work it in yet. Maybe like this?

    Bloodbond N (Pay X life: This blocked creature or a creature it's blocked by gets +X/+X until end of turn. Its power can't become N or greater this way. Any player may activate this ability.)

  6. I still agree that it shouldn't be keyworded (mostly because finding a way to do a double-blind pick is kind of awkward using normal gaming supplies), but what about making this mechanic +X/+0 instead of +X/+X?

    Now you know exactly how much life you need to pay to kill what you're in combat with, and your choices are either 0 or that amount.

  7. the power and toughness boosting doesn't seem necessary, it could be simplified to this:

    Psionic (Whenever this becomes blocked, you and defending player simultaneously pay any amount of life. If you paid more, destroy all creatures blocking this.)

    1. I like this implementation. It feels like the movie Scanners, and that works well. It maintains the bluff factor Jay described, while being much clearer in intent. Plus, no trample problems.

    2. Still doesn't need to be a keyword. How much design space is there here?

  8. "Simultaneous" is what makes this card outside of the NWO.....way too complicated when it comes to putting the ability on the stack (which I'm not even sure that works).