Thursday, October 3, 2013

Designing Suvnica, Week 15: More Equal than Others

Time for us to start narrowing down the final mechanics we'll be playtesting with. I was originally going to host this part of the proceedings over on the guild's profile page, but I think I'll just throw the final candidates for playtesting there and have the conversation and arguments on a separate page instead.

In just a few lines you'll see the 24 mechanics that were pitched for the Suiroza. They're not grouped by general theme or anything - they're listed alphabetically by sample card name. 10/4 EDIT: Jules raised a good point in the comments about grouping mechanics by what the mechanic is trying to accomplish, so I reordered the examples to reflect this. As far as the samples go - I tried to post the most simple version of a given mechanic as I could, either using a common from the original design challenge, or coming up with a stripped down version.

After looking over the options, think about which ones you think are the most worthy of playtesting, and in the comments tell me why you think they should make the final cut. Make sure you're very specific about which mechanic you're advocating or suggesting we cut - a lot of similar mechanics have similar names. I'll make the final decision some time next week, and then we'll start filling out a chunk of design skeleton for our finalists.

So without further ado, here are our contestants:

Ability Sharing Mechanics

Personal Achievement Mechanics 

Other Mechanics


Have at it everybody.


  1. I don't think just having every technically different mechanic as its own section is terribly productive. If we have four other mechanics as the top vote earners, but numbers 5-10 are all slight variants on Exemplify then the system's not working. I'd rather group them into mechanical similarity groups and then negotiate the exact text of whatever we pick. Perhaps discuss our thoughts on groupings here and then you can make the final determinations?

    Here's my shot:

    Ability sharing:


    Tabula Rasa

    Fate hate



    1. Fair point. When Gilrog week comes around, there's about fifteen variations on a single mechanic alone.

    2. Since we're going to be making all sort of adjustments in design/development/playtesting, picking one variant and listing the various forms it has declined into without example cards is clearly best.

    3. I'm less inclined to list them by inspiration/spinoff, since I don't want that to influence which way people discuss any given mechanic. I may group them up though, if only for easier comparing/contrasting.

  2. Example has memory issues. Add a +1/+1 counter of fate counter to the mix, and it becomes a more board-affecting version of Monstrosity.

    Is Exemplary the same except that the abilities stay after the creature leaves (and only boosts the ones who were OTB when the ability was triggered)? Way too hard to track.

    Mentoring is fine, though a bit aggressive for WU.

    Bestowed is easier to balance and can allow non-combat abilities like "{T}: Loot."

    Mastered asks you to attack once and then avoid combat for several turns. Mixed message.

    Exemplify is neat, but impractical. You have use two cards to grant an ability to your third and fourth (etc) cards and the whole thing is vulnerable to a single removal spell.

    Teach interacts in a new way with auras, and since it's temporary, avoids the biggest reason against aura tokens. It does require a heavy commitment to auras, though, and offers no extra resilience.

    If Fate Hate is the only mechanic that cares about fate, the counter isn't likely worthwhile. If it's NOT, and the other mechanics treat it as a good thing, players won't know how to evaluate fate.

    Schooling is like bestowed but requires a commitment to non-creature spells, which I'd rather not see on a creature keyword. It doesn't have to be a creature keyword, but then it would go on artifacts/enchantments.

    The sacrifice clause on Foster sticks out a sore thumb on a WU mechanic. Also, trading dudes that are better than 1/1s in order to temporarily boost 1/1s doesn't sound fun.

    Exemplification is solid. Tracking it is easy, it gets the teaching and community themes across, and it's not a creature mechanic, which most of Suvnica's mechanics are.

    Exemplar is the same except there's no way to track the update (and it doesn't have an out to removal).

    Teacher is a repeatable, uncounterable spell that can be traded for a creature. Not a big fan of either half.

    Expertise rewards you for attacking and for finding other ways to tap your creatures, which is nice. This is my favorite Suiroza creature mechanic.

    "Three or more" on Reflecting feels way too fiddly to me.

    Reflect lets you copy combat tricks you use on it, and can dissuade removal but with a shields-down vulnerability. I like all of that. We do have to fix it so it doesn't copy auras.

    Reflector is solid, but too similar to Replicate.

    Archive is too expensive. We could make the effects worth a card, but then you're promoting repetitive play.

    Tabula Rasa has memory issues.

    Mastery rewards you for not doing combat, which isn't terrible but Expertise just seems more fun.

    Strive is neat but doesn't feel white or blue.

    Mentor is a repeatable, uncounterable combat (and non-combat) trick. Often a weak one.

    Aspire feels green-blue.

    Imitate is the fixed Reflect.

    In summary, my favorite mechanics here for Suiroza are Imitate, Expertise and Exemplification.

  3. I mostly agree with Jay's analysis, except that I think a level-up system generally isn't good for a guild mechanic (ROE had no +1/+1 counters at common or uncommon). My favorites of these are Bestowed, Exemplification, Teacher, and Imitate.

    1. Ipaulsen does make a good point about my level-up mechanics with ROE not having +1/+1 counters below rare, but I'll argue that it heavily depends on the other possible counter mechanics and what support cards we want. Also, the special frame does a good job of delinating that this card has special counters to new players, but then again it might be too unique for being one of 10 mechanics. I dunno, I think it is the most flavorful but it might too difficult to include.

    2. too unique just about sums it up. every guild is somebody's favorite guild, and mechanics that use a different card frame tend to stand out way more. Unless every guild has it's own unique "frame" mechanic, non-azorius players are going to feel robbed.

  4. I like the story that Exemplification tells; and I have faith that between all of us we can find enough cards to interestingly fit the ability. Commons may be tricky, but we have enough dials to turn to make sure they're developed to the right power level.

    Imitate is the other keyword that appeals to me. The shields-down part that Jay talks about help balance both of the mechanics out, and they both tell a pretty good story. I like it, and synergetic instants and sorceries may be easier to design than a focus on enchantments, but I do think Exemplification, if we get it there, is more likely to be a design-home-run, when Imitate is merely a more reliable hit. The biggest obstacle I see is that Imitate creatures may just seem similar to one another, but playtesting may tell us more about that.

  5. No love for foster? Colorless tokens nicely convey the unguilded, and the mechanic has great backwards compatibility with white and blues love of artifact creatures.

    I don't like that you have to sacrifice the creature to foster your colorless creatures, but it could probably be balanced as a static ability, similar to the Splicers in New Phyrexia.

    Other than that, I think Exemplification's Aura -> Global Enchantment mechanic has a lot of promise.

    1. I think the colorless-token idea behind Foster has promise, but WU shouldn't be sacrificing to interact with them, and other guilds would need to care about them too, particularly the weenie/army guilds.

      Maybe stuff like:

      {T}: Target colorless creature get +1/+1 until EOT.


      Tap X untapped colorless creatures you control, {T}: Counter target spell with CMC X.

    2. Upon further reflection, I hate the idea of using the word colorless on more than perhaps a single rare in the set. What I'd much rather see is a few mechanics that benefit from having a lot of creatures.

      Black (or one of the black guilds) can focus on sacrifice.
      White (or one of the white guilds) can grant +1/+1 (or other boosts) to your team.
      Green can use Might of the Masses effects
      and red can use Dogpile effects

      It makes sense that a city/civilization set cares about having large numbers of creatures.

      The fact that the tokens are colorless could come into play as guilds focus on creatures that share colors with them, and thus leave out the unguilded.

  6. Mastery, Strive, Aspire, Mentoring (with "another" put in the targetting clause) and Foster are the only mechanics here I would be comfortable with, especially if they need to be on commons. The levelling theme is too complex for one guild in ten - it was a larger part of ROE and still took up a lot of complexity.

  7. I like the colorless creatures as unguilded idea, but I don't like using them in a guild mechanic because it not only dilutes the unguilded flavor, but also makes a guild feel overpowered (even if its not) because its synergy with cards outside the guild is so obvious.

    While I like some of the personal achievement mechanics, Strive seems to be in the wrong colors and all the Level-Up framed mechanics eat up more complexity than we have to spare. That leaves me believing that we should pursue ability sharing.

    I don't want to do any of the spell copying versions because that's not part of white's turf.

    Exemplification seems the most promising to me, but there's a reason global enchantments rarely show up at common: they add to board complexity. On top of that the aura->global model will make it hard to find balanced effects (do we really want Levitation at common?), but if we can navigate these hurdles it will be awesome.
    The second issue is solved by Exemplar, but it makes the transition so hard to track that it's not worthwhile in my eyes, but Exemplify might work if everything's good but the power level.

    The other contender, in my eyes, is teach. It's already hard to pull off, and probably needs some "you control" in there to improve gameplay, but it might just work if Exemplification doesn't.

    Mentoring and Bestowed are both passable, but unexciting. They should be our fall backs if we can't get something else to work.

    1. Could Radiance be sufficient precedent for Imitate in white?

    2. Where spell copying is specifically about sharing the wealth / protecting your team, I'm fine with it in white-X.

  8. Let's see if we can make common Exemplification cards.

    How to Loot {1}{U}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature has "{U}, {T}: Draw a card, then discard a card."
    Exemplification {U}{U}{U}

    Crusader's Path {W}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted white creature gets +1/+1.
    Exemplification {4}{W}{W}

    Crenellation Training {W}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature gets +0/+1.
    Exemplification {1}{W}

    Shift Scheduling {W}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature has vigilance
    Exemplification {2}{W}

    Pikeman Training {1}{W}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature has "{T}: Target attacking or blocking creature gets +1/+1 until EOT."
    Exemplification {1}{W}{W}

    Flying Lessons {U}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature has flying.
    Exemplification {3}{U}{U}

    Inner Strength {W}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature has "{W}: This creature gets +0/+1 until EOT."
    Exemplification {1}{W}{W}

    The Better Part of Valor {WU}
    Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted creature has "{WU}: Return this creature to it's owner's hand."
    Exemplification {W}{W}{U}{U}

    What I'm seeing is that we have to make either marginal effects or drive the costs really high in order to put effects that would pretty much always appear at uncommon or rare at common.

    It wouldn't be hard to spread this to instants and sorceries, but that's just overload.

    Sneaking {1}{U}
    Instant (cmn)
    Target creature you control is unblockable this turn.
    Exemplifcation {U}{U}

    Who can add a perspective that makes exemplification look useable at common?

    1. Worth bearing in mind that any given guild mechanic only needs to show up at common 5-6 times across the block (I'm working on a design skeleton article for guild mechanics, coming later this week).

    2. Chant of Light {W}
      Enchantment - Aura
      Enchanted creature has "{W}, T: You gain 2 life."
      Exemplification {2}{W}{W}

    3. Most of these add more board complexity than I'm comfortable with even if they aren't too strong, but I think you've hit on something with How to Loot. Abilities that don't affect combat are much less important to track, and having an activation cost keeps it from getting too nuts when all of your creatures gain the ability. Jay's that I'd be willing to print at common:

      How to Loot (though I'd move the activation to {2} for better two-color play)
      Shift Scheduling
      Flying Lessons
      The Better Part of Valor

      Pasteur's adds some complexity as well, but probably a printable level. The same caveat with colorless activation applies.

      Other potential common cards:

      EMT Training {W}
      Enchant Creature
      Enchanted creature has {1}, {T}: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to you this turn.
      Exemplification {2}{W}

      Coordination Training {W}
      Enchant Creature
      Whenever enchanted creature attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
      Exemplification {3}{W}

      Mind-Clearing Training {U}
      Enchant Creature
      Enchanted creature has "{2}, {T}: Target player puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard."
      Exemplification {2}{U}

      Causality Training {U}
      Enchant Creature
      Enchanted creature has "{1}, {T}: Look at the top card of your library. You may put that card onto the bottom of your library."
      Exemplification {3}{U}

      Of course we don't want them all to be tap effects because then multiple Exemplifications have really quickly diminishing returns. Unfortunately, other space is hard to find, but according to MaRo many LSPs ignore death triggers until they occur. I want to test if the same thing is true for, say, Fecundity. If so, we could pursue designs like this:

      Legacy Training {W}
      Enchant Creature
      When enchanted creature dies, you gain 2 life.
      Exemplification {4}{W}

    4. I fear overload demonstrates that if a card has two modes, one common (Flame Slash) and one rare, then the card needs to be rare. The same is true of these. Serra's Blessing, Levitation, etc are uncommon cards, and they'd break a lot of rules at common. Driving the costs really high doesn't feel like a good solution to me.

      But it may be that with a lot of brainstorming and thinking we can sift a few common ideas out of these.

    5. The interesting thing about Serra's Blessing / Levitation is that they are very easy to grok, which suggests that they are placed at uncommon for balance / power level reasons. As long as an Exemplification ability costs at least as much as the corresponding global enchantment, I don't see this being a huge problem.

      The text-hacking aspect of the ability is the most likely reason for Exemplification cards to be uncommon, but after seeing seven Bestow cards at common in Theros, I think we can put that objection to rest.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Been having some computer and connectivity issues. Update coming soon.

  11. Shieldsage {1}{W}
    Creature-Human Soldier (common)
    Demonstrate — {W}: CARDNAME and target creature get +0/+1 until EOT.

    Windsage {2}{U}
    Creature-Human Wizard (common)
    Demonstrate — {1}{U}: CARDNAME and target creature gain flying until EOT.

    Springsage {2}{W}{U}
    Creature-Human Advisor (uncommon)
    Demonstrate — {1}{WU}: Untap CARDNAME and target creature.

  12. Fuddy Duddy W
    Creature-Human (common)
    Cooperate — Tap ~ and another untapped creature you control: Tap target creature.

    Study Buddy 2U
    Creature-Human Advisor (uncommon)
    Cooperate — Tap ~ and another untapped creature you control: Draw a card.

    Ruddy Putty 3U
    Creature-Shapeshifter (rare)
    Cooperate — Tap ~ and another untapped creature you control: Both creatures you tapped this way become copies of target creature and then gain this ability.