Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CCDD 073013—8 Cost-Reduction/Added-Value Keywords

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/30/2013 - I made the mistake last week of wondering how I could represent chaotic mana before going to bed. These ten cards are the result. Sleep is overrated anyhow, right?

Most of these cards are clearly unprintable, but they add ideas to the entire group that can only accelerate progress toward the few usable ideas that might emerge.

The original goal here was to allow the player to pay less than the spell's full cost at the risk of failing to cast the spell at all and wasting that mana. This isn't the normal cost-reduction mechanic because it's unreliable and it's most useful when you're either desperate and need to get lucky, or when you've got nothing better to do with your mana. Both of which are times I'm happy to help a player out.

Cast from the Hip was the original execution that sparked all these various iterations. Unfortunately, it's wordy as hell. In plain English, you can try to cast Goblin Grat Rider for less than full cost, but for each mana you cheat by, there's a chance you'll fail and waste your effort.

Tamper features the exact same mechanic, but with a shorter and arguably more intuitive template. I still don't think it's short or intuitive enough.

Maybe the option to reduce the cost by any amount is what's putting it over the top, but a maximum cost reduction of {1} doesn't seem worth the text (and limits the number of tights spots it can get you out of).

This is one of the wackier implementations. Competitor Coupons lets you pay any amount, but the less you pay, the less likely your mana will have any effect. It's a little weird tying the result to another card this way, and that the full cost of Cheat Death is irrelevant, but it's the shortest version of the original vision I came up with.

"{X} + the revealed card's CMC >= this spell's CMC?" seems to grok fairly well, but it still proves mighty wordy in Magic-ese:

You may have noticed wherever I had you reveal the top card of your library before, it then went to the bottom. It can't stay on the top because you could try to cast these spells for {1} to see what's on top, and if you do find a good batch, just cast them all. For Gift of the Angel, I replaced reveal-and-bottomize with exile, which is a lot shorter. I was reluctant about that because casual players hate removing cards from their deck, but if it's just one card, that's not terrible—and it feels like a more tangible cost to this gamble than the loss of mana.

The spells above risk mana, but not cards. Wildcast ups the stakes by twisting that around. You might be able to cast Desperate Theft without paying anything, but you'll lose the card if not. I'm thinking these stakes are too high because while players frequently have excess mana, there's no such thing as excess cards.

The next batch of cards step further afield from the original concept, exploring more tangential how-far-will-your-mana-go mechanics.

Lucky moves the uncertainty from whether you cast your spell or not, to how strong it is. It's also set up to appear all-upside: The random element can only improve your result.

Using red's Coal Stoker rebate concept, kickback could refund you all, some, or none of the mana you used to cast the spell. There's no chance in terms of whether the kickback spell works, but whether you can chain into multiple spells is uncertain.

Like kickback, there's never any doubt whether your manaflow spell will resolve, but it's unclear if you'll win the bonus round and chain into something 'free.' In this case, you can get a free spell. Manaflow is pretty similar to cascade. Since you only get to look at one card, it's harder to use (or break) and so the maximum value can be slightly higher, I think. 

You'll notice that some of these mechanics, use 'play' and some use 'cast' (thus including or excluding land cards, respectively) mostly based on theme, but that's a dial that could be tweaked in Development.

Overcharge is a kicker variant that lets you pay extra for a chance at a free spell. I actually like that quite a lot.

Searing Vision is even simpler, and something I'm confident we'll see in a few forms over the coming years.

Mean Attack appeals to the logician/mathematican in me, but it's entirely unprintable by today's standards of grokkability. Even so, I really like that you can play it for cheap, gambling for a relevant result, or reduce the risk and increase the EV by paying more.

Again, most of these are unprintable. My question is, which ideas stood out as worth tinkering on?


  1. dragon's havoc stood out for me. maybe this is because it is the card erratic explosion for 1 mana. but I think it is the most viable of the bunch.
    goblin meglomaniac has some charm to it, it's one of the very few that has little enough text to work.
    blooming wildflyer is gonna be hell in a storm deck.
    cheat death's mechanic is totally broke as long as you have a land on top of your library.

    almost all the rest of these have way to much text to accomplish very little and aren't all that great. perhaps it would be better to go to a different source of randomness: a coin?

    Goblin gatrider redoux {4}{R}
    coupon {2}{R} [i](you may cast this card for it's coupon cost but flip a coin in addition to casting it. If you lose the flip return this card to your hand.)[/i]

    anyways you're treading on unsteady ground here.
    for those interested I would suggest listening to maro's podcast on randomness here:

    1. or a better wording would be:
      {2}{R}, Reveal CARDNAME from your hand, Flip a coin: If you win the flip cast CARDNAME without paying it’s mana cost. Activate this ability only as a sorcery.

  2. Searing Vision looks like it should be a Pact-like thing, I think.

    Consuming Vision (rare)
    Color Indicator: Red
    CARDNAME deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
    Exile the top card of your library. You may play it this turn. At the beginning of the end step, if you didn't play it, you lose the game.

  3. I like Searing Vision!

    But many of these would result in disappointment most of the time. A good type of volatility to aim for might be the kind where you usually get something out of it, but you don't know what. Otherwise, the ones where you get to make an educated guess about how much to pay seem better than the completely luck-based hit-or-miss ones.

  4. Cheat Death is just a free spell. Pay X = 0 until you hit a land. Gift of the Angel has similar issues.

    I like Dragon's Havoc, though.

    1. D'oh. Good point. Maybe:
      {X}, Reveal the top card of your library: If it's CMC is X or less, put it on the bottom and cast ~ without paying its mana cost.

      Of course, that still allows you to pay {0}, discover there's an Elvish Mystic on top and then pay {1}. Boo.

  5. I really like lucky and overcharge. Overcharge could be improved in two ways. We can make it guaranteed to net something:

    Overcharge (You may pay an additional {X} as you cast this spell. If you do, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card with CMC X. You may cast it without paying its mana cost. Put the exiled cards on the bottom in a random order.)

    That's damn wordy though. An alternative is just to increase the chance of success (by merging it with manaflow):

    Sonic Blast {X}{R}
    Sonic Blast deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
    Overcharge (When you cast this spell, reveal the top card of your library. If it costs {X}{R} or less, you may cast it without paying its mana cost.)