Sunday, October 20, 2013

Designing Suvnica, Week 16(b): An Offer You Can't Refuse

While the designs for Illustrate are coming in, being evaluated, and put into a test deck, we might as well get the ball rolling on giving the Suiroza a test deck to fight against. There weren't nearly as many Radkar keyword submissions, so I think we'll try to narrow this list down to just three final keywords to test.

As with the Suiroza keywords, use the comments to say why you think any given keyword should make it into our final considerations. Keep things like NWO, design space, and flavor in mind, but remember that above all else, if the guild's keyword isn't fun, then that guild's fans will be unhappy (See Radiance).


  1. My thoughts:

    Despotism and Power Hungry both play around in the same design space. They're both solid Limited mechanics, but I'm inclined to favor Power Hungry because it doesn't require you to have other creatures in play. (Though I would suggest re-templating it so it reads positively: "... as long as it has the greatest power among creatures you control.")

    Opportunistic and Relentless are also very similar. Here I much prefer Relentless, because it gives you more control over when it triggers. Opportunistic is a cool idea, but it already requires some special-case covering and doesn't account for Pacifism effects.

    Creature Dominance is a very swingy mechanic. I like the concept in general, but I suspect it will make building aggressive decks in Limited too easy. Relentless does similar things but in a slightly less oppressive way.

    Glorious End probably plays well-- and a built-in Fling does seem fun-- but there's not much design space for it, it doesn't make sense in mono-black, and the flavor matches the Ravnica Rakdos better than the Suvnica Radkar.

    Opportunism is flavorful, but very narrow. Unless we fill the set with ping effects, I don't see the mechanic doing anything.

    Punisher was my mechanic submission. It's known to play well, but it hasn't been tried in large quantities before and some people might be disappointed that Radkar doesn't get a brand-new mechanic. Still, it hasn't been keyworded before, and it could make a very interesting and fun angle for Limited.

    My picks: Power Hungry, Punisher, Relentless

    1. Oops, I forgot Highway Robbery. This seems like a solid mechanic. But if the opponent can't kill a highway robber quickly, it can easily get out of hand. I wonder if it should say "at the end of *your* turn" to reduce the power level and encourage attacking.

    2. Fighty Robber is probably on the very top of what can be done with this (it's almost strictly better than the Slith ability, after all). At common, I'd favor abilities that allow you to sacrifice the creature for a bonus, allowing for a card or two with a Glorious End-style effect.

    3. Oh, I see-- I misunderstood Highway Robbery was. It's just an ability word that cares about having dealt damage, and the +1/+1 counter is specific to Fighty Robber, right? In that case it's totally reasonable. I'm adding it as my fourth pick.

    4. Yeah, sometimes just posting a single example of the ability, especially at common, doesn't convey the whole potential. But I did have a post where I reviewed all these mechanics, and all submitted examples were posted there.

  2. Despotism is a solid mechanic that creates some interesting deckbuilding decisions - you want to craft a curve of power alongside a mana-curve now, which could lead to some interesting draft strategies.
    Creature Dominance is both too swingy and too out-of-your-hands; it's not fun when a bunch of your creatures' fun effects are turned off simply because of which deck you happen to be facing. This also feels far more red/white than red/black.
    Glorious End doesn't need to be keyworded, there's not enough interesting variations you can do with it in my opinion, nor is it black at all.
    Highway Robbery is quite solid. This could be in any number of color combinations, so I guess red/black is fine to test it in. Works good with removal and combat tricks in red/black, too.
    Opportunism is too reliant on other factors. Bloodthirst merely wanted you to have dealt damage to the opponent, which can be accomplished easily with creatures; but this requires a very specific type of spell (direct damage), which can be hard to find in Limited.
    Opportunistic is neat. Reads very weirdly though, and still doesn't feel particularly black.
    Power Hungry and Punisher are both drawback mechanics, so... no.
    Relentless is cool, a variable frenzy. I like it, but I think it lacks the elegance of a few other mechanics on the list.

    1. Power Hungry's not actually a drawback mechanic, it just reads like one. Punisher is, but as the player base's reaction to Vexing Devil illustrates, most of the audience reads it as an upside. Given that drawback mechanics actually have great gameplay, but just read unappealingly, Punisher should be just fine.

    2. Punisher is not a drawback mechanic. It's a mechanic with a drawback in it, but at no point does it hurt you. It always helps you. That your opponent gets to choose the lesser of the two positive effects limits its power, but never turns it into a negative.

    3. You're right, I'm falling into the same pit I'm trying to point out.
      The point is that it doesn't matter if something's actually a drawback so much as if it's interpreted that way.
      Punisher says "you don't get X unless Y" which seems to read like much more of a drawback to experienced players than "if Z, you get X" even though they're logically equivalent for the right Y and Z. Take Threshold on Mystic Visionary. "Mystic Visionary has flying as long as seven or more cards are in your graveyard." reads better than "Mystic Visionary has flying unless fewer than seven cards are in your graveyard." but they're identical.

      The point is, for Punisher it reads more like a drawback to many of us, but for lots of players it reads more like an Izzet Charm. "A 4/3 for {R} is really good, and so is 4 damage for {R}. This card can do either!"
      They may not be "correct," but it means that Punisher wouldn't receive the same backlash that Echo or Fading did.

  3. I greatly prefer Depotism to Power Hungry because it won't stop players from casting spells as frequently. That said, it may be difficult to balance given how heavily it rewards curving out, and it still does add some incentive to sit around not casting spells, but a static effect leads to skyrocketing board complexity. I'd like to make it a death trigger and try flavoring it as a grab for power. i.e. Power Vacuum--When ~ dies, if you control a creature with lesser power, DO X. That way players are happy to cast their creatures and we get a lot of interaction with the players trying to get creatures killed in a different order.

    I agree with Ipaulsen's analyses of Dominance, Opportunism, and Glorious End, and I'd argue that both Relentless and Opportunistic makes combat way too mathy. I'd bet on players tanking about attacks for minutes on end, and then waiting another minute for blocks to be declared.
    Punisher isn't bringing anything new to the table, but it's fun and a good fit.
    Highway Robbery leads to a lot of fun scenarios trying to keep a guy alive, but lots of end step triggers are pretty awkward in practice. I want to try out the Leyline Phantom wording instead.
    As such, my votes will be for Depotism, Punisher, and Highway Robbery, or in their tweaked forms:

    Punisher (the same)

    Power Vacuum--When ~ dies, if you control a creature with lesser power, DO X.

    Might Makes Right--Whenever ~ deals combat damage, DO X if it survived combat.

    Interestingly, Might Makes Right/Highway Robbery is also an excellent fit for white as a sort of heroic growth mechanic a la Bushi Tenderfoot.

  4. Playtesting might change our minds*, but Despotism and Power Hungry don't really appeal to me; they've got all the awkward if-only-I'd-drawn-my-deck-in-the-opposite-order of Evolve with no big dream reward for when you actually do draw it in the best order.
    *But because it's not 100% clear how they'll really play, we should probably test one of them to find out.

    Creature Dominance is a white/green thing. While we could redefine which colors are the swarm colors for this block, the Radkar aren't even /about/ having the most members. If this were about fear and manipulation like the ability name suggests, that would be different. Something like:
    Dominate—If target creature attacks or blocks before your next turn, [effect].
    which plays well with things you don't want to fight against: deathtouch, first strike, intimidate; things Radkar has anyhow.

    Glorious End is perfectly black-red. Not sure if it's any fun. VERY Spikey. Perhaps even moreso than Bloodrush. At least BR is an appropriate place for a Spike mechanic.

    Highway Robbery feels vampiric. If we're okay putting it on non-vampires (or making another set with BR vampires), then I like how kill-me-or-I'll-kill-you it is. Balancing this so it's not oppressive will likely lead to a similar distribution as we saw in Innistrad, which is a knock against this in itself.

    Opportunism will never actually trigger. Suppose I Spark Jolt your guy before combat just to set up my attacker. You just don't block. Or you do, because trading your 2/2 with my 3/2 isn't that much worse just because I get 3 life out of the deal.

    Opportunistic reads too awkwardly for a BR guild. WU or UB would be happy with an ability that reads like a puzzle, but not BR. Punishing neither attacking or blocking is an odd thing to focus on. Why wouldn't I just block? Most utility guys tap so they're not affected either.

    Punisher is very BR. The mechanic is weaker than it looks, but en masse it should actually become very relevant. I'd flip the wording on Radkar Extortionist so that a player can't choose discard if he has no cards to discard.

    Relentless is less intuitive than this amount of text should be, but not too hard to play once you figure out it's basically "X attackers - Y blockers" regardless of who blocks whom. Flavor's weak, and that's another knock against players grokking it.

    My vote goes to Punisher.

    1. When you first designed Highway Robbery, it was just the trigger and worked with any kind of effect:

      It's still pretty powerful, but it's much less hard to stop and I'm sure we can find interesting and balanced things to do with it.

    2. Oh, cool. I'll vote for that too, then.

  5. Eh, my Dominance mechanic isn't getting the right idea across with just one card. The original version was "Thing" Dominance, where if you had more of that thing than the opponent (creatures, cards in hand, life), the bonus happened. Not the best NWO design but I felt it was easy enough to understand.

    1. This makes Dominance very interesting to me. You would have to make sure that none of the cards felt like the ability was just tacked on - the flavor of the card and of the effect hopefully making the trigger intuitive, so you're never at a loss for which variable is being dominated - but that's well within our means.

      I like how opportunistic Dominance feels - whatever your opponent is weakest at, you're pushing that button and wringing out an advantage out of it. With what is being Dominated and effect-you-gain being looser, for the actual cards we might want to tighten up the rest of the ability some, maybe making all of them ETB triggers, or something along those lines, just to make the ability more cohesive and grokkable.

  6. punisher does not feel like a guild mechanic, it feels like a submechanic for a whole block. also from experience punisher cards are super dupper hard to get right.

    for glorious end, have your mechanic be "I'm a burn spell" tends to build a cluster F of burn at common.

    creature dominice looks like a mechanic where as soon as you get ahead you will bawl the opponent down, without much resistance.

    highway robbery is an interesting effect... but it puts focus on having your guys survive combat. which in general doesn't fit with red/blacks ability palate

    massive buffs to power do not make go mechanics

    my vote is for power hungry or depotism, depending on whether we want the guild to build up or out.

  7. My votes go to: Despotism, Relentless, and cautiously Glorious End.

    I like Despotism. It looks like it'd be similar to Hierarchy from my cardset Clockwork Wings - - which the little playtesting I've done shows seems to play well. (I don't like the Power Hungry variation - I think it'd lead to more feel-bad situations.)

    My feeling about Glorious End is that it doesn't read well, and initially lends itself to looking bad, but could play well when given the right support cards. It's basically a set full of Bloodpyre Elementals and Barbarian Lunatics. That sounds powerful, but in the same way as Bloodrush is: it lets you trade your cards 1-for-1 quite reliably but no more than that.

    Creature Dominance looks quite swingy and win-more, so I don't think I like it. I enjoyed Saviors of Kamigawa's "Hand Dominance" (wisdom), though. But I'm not sure the variability of the effects is coherent enough for a guild identity.

    Relentless looks good. Looks like it'd lead to interesting play situations.

  8. Black and Red are good at killing. Can we reward that?

    Bone Collector {2}{B}
    Creature—Human Wizard (cmn)
    Revel — Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, that player loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.

    Blood Teller {1}{R}
    Creature—Rat Shaman (cmn)
    Revel — Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, target player discards a card, then draws a card.

    Corpse Looter {2}{B}{B}
    Creature—Human Rogue (unc)
    Revel — Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, you may pay 1 life. If you do, draw a card.

    Sanguine Apprentice {B}{R}
    Creature—Vampire Warrior (unc)
    Revel — Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, put a +1/+1 counter on ~.

    Salt the Wound {3}{B}{B}
    Enchantment (rare)
    Revel — Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, that player sacrifices a permanent.

    What's neat about revel is that it acts as psuedo-evasion. A lot of the effects end up being pretty similar to existing black and/or red cards, which reduces the mechanic's novelty.

    1. It's a great idea for a red-black mechanic. I have a feeling it's more Rakdos than Radkar though.