Saturday, August 3, 2013

Filling Out the Tesla Draft Test Packs

In a few days, we will be testing our Mecha mechanic for Tesla by drafting with a mockup set. The details of the test draft are here. The main purpose of this test is to find out the approximate numbers and color scheme necessary for Mechas decks to be reliably draft-able.

I will compile the mockup set since it may take too long to do it through discussions and votes on each step. But I will be using this post as a working space so that you can make comments and suggestions on what reprints and/or original cards should go into this test set.

You don't need to read the card lists below if you just want to follow what's happening with Tesla. It's more like a series of notes rather than an article. Also, feel free to suggest reprints etc. that would fit in the test without reading the lists below.

By the way, this is just one out of many possible directions. This version has Phyrexians in them, but future versions may pit a different type of villain against the Mechas, and will correspondingly have different set content.


Some of the guidelines I'm using are:

  • We don't want the removal to be too harsh on Mechas. Something like Dead Weight, Heat Ray or Go for the Throat is great, but something like Shatter is too oppressive for Mechas.
  • Infect should be a competing presence to Mechas in this test. 2 Common Infect creatures per color seems like a good number. Mirrodin Besieged doesn't have Infect in Red or Blue, so we'll need to port the Red and Blue Infect creatures from New Phyrexia.
  • We don't want Metalcraft to be creating additional draft dynamics, so we'll remove them and replace them with reprints or original cards that mesh well with Mechas.
  • We'll replace bomby rares that win a game single-handedly with more moderate cards, because a game dominated by bombs don't help us see how Mechas play out. We'll also remove Mythic cards completely for the same reasons.
What other guidelines should be used for this process?

The card list in progress is below.
*The cards in bold are the cards that look like perfect fits for the theme.
*The cards in italic need to be replaced.


Ardent Recruit -> Salvage Scout
Banishment Decree -> Guard Duty? Arrest? -> Probably Forced Worship. (B.D. looks brutal, putting both halves of a Mecha on top of the library and destroying 2 draw steps in the process. But then again you do get to reassemble the Mecha in two turns; could that be dramatic?)
Divine Offering -> ? -> Statis Cocoon. (D.O. is too efficient against Mecha. A clunkier card might be fine.)
Frantic Salvage (Awesome support for this theme!)
Leonin Skyhunter
Loxodon Partisan
Master's Call
Priests of Norn
Tine Shrike -> Shriek Raptor (Don't know if this swap is necessary, trying to slow things down a bit.)


Fuel for the Cause
Mirran Spy -> Neurok Invisimancer? (The options for non-Infect decks looked to be lacking after swapping in the Infect creatures. But maybe that's ok if there is a guaranteed Head in each pack?)
Oculus -> Thrummingbird (Blighted Agent should be at Uncommon if there are going to be three packs containing Blue infect rather than just one?)
Quicksilver Geyser -> Frost Breath or Call to Heel (Q.G. is like "return 3 cards to hand" against a Mecha deck.)
Serum Raker -> Faerie Mechanist (Don't know what the discard ability of S.R. is doing here. Could use more Mecha support in this slot.)
Spire Serpent -> Chained Throatseeker
Steel Sabotage -> Bonds of Quicksilver (S.S. is too effective against Mechas, but a clunkier answer to artifacts should be allowed.)
Turn the Tide
Vivisection -> Divination (I'm not sure if we want an additional sub-theme like sacrifice for the purposes of this test set.)


Caustic Hound (In this block, there seems to be a mini-theme in Black and Red based on direct damage/life loss to opponents. Should it be replaced with something more generic?)
Flensermite -> a black-shifted Ichorclaw Myr in this slot? (Flensermite looks a little too unreliable as an Infect source.)
Horrifying Revelation
Morbid Plunder
Phyrexian Rager
Scourge Servant -> Toxic Nim?
Spread the Sickness
Virulent Wound


Blisterstick Shaman -> Razor Swine or a Red-shifted Necropede
Burn the Impure -> Volt Charge
Concussive Bolt -> ?
Gnathosaur -> Flameborn Hellion
Koth's Courier -> Vulshok Heartstoker (Replacing this because too many unstoppable forms of damage can punish slow deck trying to assemble a Mecha. However, some form of clocking the opponent slowly and steadily should be allowed elsewhere.)
Kuldotha Ringleader -> Replace with some 2-drop to smooth out the curve, especially for non-infect decks?
Ogre Resister -> Ogre Menial
Rally the Forces
* Color-shift the haste Infect?


Fangren Marauder -> Alpha Tyrranax
Glissa's Courier -> Horned Troll? (Replacing this because I don't want too much unstoppable sources of damage, although some form of clocking the opponent slowly and steadily should be allowed. Regeneration allows board stall to buy time for assembling Mechas, and also might provide a way at Common to cope with assembled ground Mechas without killing them. It's probably ok at Common since there is Infect.)
Mirran Mettle -> Spidery Grasp (Would like to see giant creatures crash into each other through surprise tricks rather than just attacking past each other. Also, a pump spell for Infect decks that doesn't kill too suddenly.)
Pistus Strike -> "2G Instant Destroy target Equipment or creature with flying." (Since unconditional artifact destruction will be toned down, Equipment destruction and non-creature Artifact destruction need to be in the set somewhere.) or Gift of the Gargantuan
Rot Wolf (Could also be Blight Mamba / Cystbearer?)
Tangle Mantis
Unnatural Predation -> Ranger's Guile (Helps protect joined Mechas)
Viridian Emissary -> Dawntreader Elk (With triple packs of this small set, V.E. will allow too much 2-for-1 ramping?)


Bladed Sentinel

Dross Ripper
Spin Engine

Tangle Hulk

Phyrexian Digester
Myr Sire

Training Drone -> Can't attack or block unless you cast an artifact (like a lone Mecha part) this turn?

Rusted Slasher -> Make a version that sacrifices itself to save an artifact (like a joined Mecha)?

Razorfield Rhino -> ?
Hexplate Golem

Flayer Husk

Copper Carapace

Ichor Wellspring -> The "Mecha Foundry" design below?
Shriekhorn -> Tumble Magnet? (Nice to have a temporary answer to Mechas.)

Support cards I'd like to include:

Clone Shell

Mecha Foundry 1 
Artifact (Common)
2, T: Put a charge counter on ~.
T, remove 3 charge counters from ~ and sacrifice it: Search your library for a Head or Body card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.

It's fun to look for reprints that might facilitate Mechas. Also, it's fun to tweak existing cards into an alternate version that supports Mechas, such as changing Blade Splicer into a card that fetches a Head or Body rather than produce a Golem. Feel free to post your own. 


Having done the Commons, I'm starting to feel that this set would be a wonky set to draft. (Which Jay said it might.) In a small set, it's hard to give both the Teslan and Phyrexian factions enough creatures at each point of the curve.

Also, these Commons will appear twice as frequently as Commons in big sets. The games might be skewed in one way or another if some of the characteristic Commons are opened in large quantities at the draft table.

Rather than agonizing over what to include at what ratio, it might actually be easier and quicker to inflate this into a large set, filling in the blanks with vanilla-ish Core Set cards like Wind Drake and Divination.

Maybe I could just use Scars of Mirrodin as a base to work with. But Scars has such a characteristic and quirky ecosystem that I'm not sure I can just reuse the card ratios from Scars unless we're going to have the same themes such as Myrs, an abundance of Common Equipment, lots of Metalcraft creatures, Spellbombs, etc. It might be better to use a Core set as a base for this test?


  1. If we have to dial down removal to Avacyn Restored levels of weakness to make Mechas play well, maybe we should reconsider the way the rules for destroying Mechas work. I wouldn't normally expect giant mechanical creatures to die to a single Doom Blade anyway-- is there an easy way to rewrite the Mecha rules so that only one half dies?

    1. I agree that if mechas get 2-for-1ed WORSE than auras, no one will want to play them in constructed, and only barely more in limited (it's CLEARLY warping the set at this point by causing the removal or nerfing of all artifact-related removal!) and that would suck for a major theme.

      How about something like destroy/die effect causing a mecha's halves to be separated (since they can't reassemble together), or if a mecha would LTB, instead exile one one half and turn the other back? These makes mechas more appealing without needing to do anything about removal.

    2. I agree if mechas are all like bad enchantments, perhaps we should make it so that the the other part that doesn't get destroyed "ejects" and turns back over. similarly you should let damage destroy either half, but not both. this poses another problem with that it makes them hard to kill... but honestly these are MECHAS. we should probably in this case use them in an owner rich environment so that you can follow up the first destruction (probably from a creature) with another.

    3. True, Mechas need fundamental 2-for-1 proof.

    4. We don't need to cramp the space on the front anymore, but we do have a lot of space on the back. Perhaps we could put a:

      (Each half of this mecha is targeted individually. If either half of this mecha would change zones, transform the other half.)

      Has this been considered?

    5. I'm not sure about targeting each half separately...
      what happens when a tapper taps one half of the Mecha?

      It might be enough to say, "If this would die, instead sacrifice one half, transform the other, and remove all damage from it."

      That doesn't stop both halves from being exiled by an Oblivion Ring, but I think it's ok that it's not 100% 2-for-1 proof.

      One problem that I see is that if you have a bomby Head (or a bomby Body) you can keep recovering that half and reusing it. That kind of repetitive state is not fun.

    6. How about:

      (If either half of this would leave the battlefield, instead un-connect it, choose one half to leave the battlefield, and transform the other half.)

      I think the removing-damage part can be implicit, since it's not like either half of a connected card can have damage on it individually.

    7. I don't see it as too problematic if a mechanic doesn't make a big splash in tournaments. How many werewolves made it into top 8s?

    8. If the two cards are one permanent when they are damaged, and damage doesn't leave when a card transforms, I think it would be a chain reaction.

      I advocate a remove-damage clause because it makes mechs less inherently flawed as a strategy and because it lets you do something never before possible in magic, destroy part of a creature.

      Think about it, every Giant Robot movie has a point where the main mech gets damaged and has to fight on with just its reserve power! Resonant, grokkable, and it gives the mechanic a chance to breathe.

    9. There were 25 Werewolves in the Top 8 in Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. 5 out of the 8 decks had at least 3 in the main, and one of ones that didn't had no creatures at all.

      And Werewolves were certainly viable in limited. There were several first pickable Werewolves, one of which was common. Huntmaster of the Fells is a constructed staple in Standard and Modern and there was a Legacy Deck that won a Grand Prix with four Hanweir Watchkeep in the main. Okay, that's an outlier I admit.

      Anyway, I think it's fair to make sure the basic mechanic is competitive.

    10. Many set mechanics are geared towards Limited, but they usually try to ensure that mechanics have their Constructed representatives, even if it's just one or two. Gavin talked about how Extort is a mechanic that's mostly suited for Limited, but Crypt Ghast is an attempt to make a Constructed viable card with the mechanic.

      But it may be very difficult to put the Mecha mechanic on the Constructed map by pushing just one or two cards, since the point of the mechanic is that many different combinations can form from them.

      The Rare cards might have to be made good enough for constructed not so much by being huge and splashy on the back side, but through the front side being very efficient weenies, with the added flexibility that you get to make it bigger or more significant in some way if you read the board state and the opponent's hand correctly, without requiring you to devote an extra card slot in your deck for something situational like an Equipment.

    11. Remember that we're not locked into Voltron being a combination of two cards in play. That's the only scenario that risks card disadvantage (and like Auras, that doesn't make it an automatic failure). If instead, two cards combine when they are in the graveyard together, whatever happens after that is gravy. Or, if you can grab a matching part from the graveyard when you play a new one, that's also all upside.

    12. On Constructed playability:

      Since Mechas are going to be very linear, and many will be colorless, the way they will probably get played in Constructed is as part of a "Mecha Deck" that plays 12+ each of heads and bodies. In all likelihood this would be an aggro/combo deck, with roughly the same role that Hexproof decks play in the current Standard and Modern formats. Making Heads and Bodies efficient on their own seems like a bad idea, in that it takes away most of the fun of playing Mechas and may also make the dedicated Mecha deck too powerful.

      This suggests that in order to "push" Mechas for Constructed, we would need about 3 designs each of powerful heads and bodies, at a higher rarity and limited to 2 or 3 colors. Wizards has done this kind of thing before, most recently with Slivers. It also helps give some identity to the mechanic in Limited.

      On Mecha rules:

      As I understand it, the mechanic's instruction to "connect" two cards creates a brand-new, oversized "card" (i.e. creature). Think of that creature as being like a token: it keeps track of damage, gets counters and Auras on it, and so on, but it can't handle zone-changing effects in the normal way. So instead it goes away, i.e. the "connecting" process is reversed and you get back the two original cards (both transformed and therefore useless). So you choose one of them to transform, and do to the other one whatever you were going to do to the token. Damage, counters, Auras, and so on all "fall off" at the moment that the connected card or token goes away.

      At least, that's one possible interpretation (which I think is fairly intuitive). On a related note, I'm against making a Mecha from anywhere other than the battlefield. Any other method (e.g. getting cards from the graveyard) risks seriously harming flavor and grokkability.

    13. On the back: (If this creature would move to another zone, instead move one half to that zone and return the other half to your hand.)

      This way we don't have to write "disconnect and transform" which might be confusing. It also gives a tempo boost for killing a mecha, but doesn't wreck the mecha player. Keeping the rare part and reusing might be part of the appeal as well - I don't think it's too strong.

    14. @hubatish
      I like your solution a lot. It avoids the having-damage issues we've been discussing and also creates interesting play decisions-- which should I save, the more expensive half or the less expensive half?

    15. @hubatish
      That is also perfect because it means you can play, say, a second head while you still have a mecha on the battlefield instead of holding it in case half of your mecha gets destroyed. Two votes!

  2. We should definitely use a core-set style skeleton, with an increased artifact presence in order to include heads/bodies.

    Also, I think including other mechanics alongside Head/Body will mess with our playtests - we need to isolate the Mecha variable, and after playtesting it in a core-set style set, we can see what kind of environment would work best for it.

    Honestly, we might want to follow the example of Rise of the Eldrazi - a set with a much slower and more deliberate pacing. Luckily, the modern stance on removal in Limited means our set won't be too out of the ordinary.

    I'd love to help with the set file. Perhaps we could have a Hackpad for the file?

    1. I strongly agree. Rise of the Eldrazi had relatively little hard removal, and it was an outstanding draft environment.

    2. Yes. Rise had removal like Vendtta or Staggershock that are very, very good but are cleverly positioned to be bad against Eldrazi, and we need to nerf the removal in that way. Nerfing removal doesn't mean it has to be like Avacyn Restored.

  3. Instead of Divine Offering, let's consider Auriok Transfixer. It's just about as good, but you can answer it.

    As for the question of Common Green Infect creatures, Cyst Bearer is the way to go, it carries that archetype. I assume Plague Stinger is too fast?

    If we keep the One Side Goes With The Other mode for the Mecha, perhaps Blue could get:

    Deconstruction U
    Tap target artifact. If that artifact is a combined mecha, separate it and transform both halves.

    Seems like that's the amount of tempo you normally get from Unsummon. You could add a mana and make it cantrip if you want it to be good.

    1. Thanks, Devin.

      I like the fact that Auriok Transfixer can be dealt with. But the fact that it can tap down whatever is causing the biggest problem at each stage without commitment to a single target might almost be bad enough to cancel out the fact that it can be dealt with. With Divine Offering, you can bait it out with a weaker artifact and then cast a Mecha, which involves a lot of good choice-making for the game, while you can't do that with a tapper. You look at the tapper on the board and know "as long as that thing is there, I shouldn't transform my Mecha." which isn't a good feeling or incentive for Mechas. The tapper is much less harsh on Mechas compared to Divine Offering, and is better than just leaving the Divine Offering in the set, but it might still dampen the game in terms of the choice-making involved nevertheless.

      I left out Cystbearer because Green already had the Spider which is very good, and I thought one good Infect creature and one ok Infect creature per color is probably a good balance for a small set.

      Plague Stinger seemed too fast, but with less Equipment maybe it's ok; currently Black needs something a little stronger. Maybe it could be 2B 1/3 flying infect?

    2. That makes a lot of sense. As long as me manage to make the Heads and Bodies good on their own, zapping them before they try to transform might occasionally be correct. Shatter with upside still seems sort of oppressive though. What about Solemn Offering? Sorcery speed means you can't just hang back without risking getting hit by a Mecha at least once.

      Blightwidow! I totally didn't see you up there. Yeah, you're pretty great. And you're the right cost for a slower format. Poifect.

      Tougher Plague Stinger That Costs More seems good.

    3. Nice! Statis Cocoon would be perfect.