Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CCDD 121813—Escorting

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/18/2013 - How many times can I post about the same mechanic? As many as it takes. This is how design happens. Iteration. If an idea is worth pursuing—and I'm growing ever more certain this one is—than it deserves to be iterated on until its the best it can be.

We've been finding ways to improve this one pretty significantly and I'm having a blast. This latest iteration is based on jack's suggestion yesterday.

With this version, you choose a specific creature. Now if I attack with Lupine Companion and three wolves, you only have to block the one I chose as the companion's escort in order to also be able to block her. That's arguably more intuitive; what do you think?

You might also ask yourself why I keep presenting the same creatures with every iteration of the mechanic. Design isn't about showing off what we can do, it's about finding the best mechanic. By remaking the same creatures we can focus on the difference that the mechanic's implementation makes. For example, compared to yesterday's Merchant Caravan, it should be clear that this version of escorted is significantly less powerful.

One drawback to this reminder text is that it implies the opposite result when the escorting creature gets Doom Blade'd before blockers are declared. Yesterday, it was clear that left the escorted creature vulnerable. Today, it looks like the escorted creature can't be blocked at all if that happens, but that doesn't make any sense thematically.

I didn't use it here, but a benefit of today's template is that you can directly refer to the escorting creature in your rules text, allowing abilities like "Whenever a creature escorts ~, it gets +1/+1 until EOT" or "~ and creatures escorting it have first strike."

Finally, since escorted has shifted from a simplified banding variant to a simpler evasion ability, we should go back and look at the possibility of putting it on the escorting creature instead of the escorted creature. "Whenever ~ escorts a creature, that creature gets +0/+2 until EOT" makes more sense to me than a creature good at being escorted.

Another reason to consider escort over escorted: Any number of escorted creatures could choose a single escort to escort all of them. They shouldn't—they should choose each other in a chain—but they could and that's not great flavor. In contrast, any number of escorting creatures could choose to escort a single creature—which is neither an unusual story, nor a bad play when you want to get your Stealer of Secrets through.


  1. "Escorted creatures can't be blocked while their escorts remain unblocked."

    That should make it clear that removing an escort before blockers are declared leaves its escort more vulnerable. I worded it vaguely so it applies to both escort and escorted, but I don't think we'd ever want to print both: Even though they could play well enough together, they fight for the same mind space and players would confuse one for the other.

  2. I like this version of the keyword, but my preference would be to write it in reverse:

    Escort (When this creature attacks, target creature can't be blocked this combat unless this creature is also blocked.)

  3. Thank you for picking up my iteration!

    Taking it further:

    * With this wording, I like "escort" a lot more than I did before, I now think there might be reasons "escort" is better than "escorted". Eg. if you have an escorted 3/3 there might be legitimate reasons to have it escorted by a 1/1 (just to soak up one potential blocker, like an outrider/skirmisher) or a 6/6 (to kill any potential blocker first).
    * I think the choice between escort/escorted should be made based on which plays better. Alhtough I agree escort has a slightly better rules template. FWIW, I assumed that "escorted" comprehensive rules would say that a creature could only escort one creature (and not be escorted itself), and that's what people would expect.
    * Alternatively, you could say an escorted creature could be escorted by any number of creatures: that would make it stronger, but you'd basically just always do that and never have to decide. That would incidentally solve the kill spell problem: it could say "can't be blocked unless all escorting creatures..." and let "all" mean "none" when appropriate.

    It also occurs to me, we should decide how this interacts with evasion. If my ground creature is escorted by a flying creature, should that mean neither can be blocked by two ground creatures (like the current wording)? Or both can be (like banding)? Or escorting has no effect and the ground creature can be blocked alone (ie. the rule says you only have to block the escorter if you can)?

  4. To the question of "should escort[ed] go on the escorting creature or the escorted creature", is it a more satisfying mechanic if the player gets the fun of figuring out how best to make escorted work?

    Let me give you an example: Thieving Magpie is a good example of a "batteries-included" card. It has an ability that triggers on hitting their face and an ability that helps you hit their face more frequently. It's not something you have to think much about how to use.

    Merchant Caravan is another card that hits the same beat as Thieving Magpie. The escorted ability in most of the forms we've discussed is essentially another form of evasion (it's sometimes better and sometimes worse than flying, depending on what the board state is.)

    But what if these two cards were in the same draft environment?

    Merchant Caravan (common)
    Creature - Human
    Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.

    Proud Escort
    Creature - Human Knight
    Escort (Whenever this creature attacks, it may escort another attacking creature. Combat damage that would be dealt to that creature is dealt to this creature instead.)

    Now you feel smart for playing these two cards together. The game didn't tell you that they would be effective together; you figured that out yourself. Is this more satisfying?

    1. What happens when two creatures escort the same creature?

    2. Or when a creature escorts a creature that escorts a creature?

    3. @Evan: Completely agreed. (Except that a 2cc 1/1 thief is better than a 3cc 1/3 thief, especially in a set with escort.)

    4. Oh, I only just noticed you made a new iteration on the keyword (and retracted a thus invalid response to fading). At the very least, we have to make sure two creatures don't escort each other, creating an infinite redirect loop.

    5. This version is actually less interesting with Stealer of Secrets, since your opponent has little reason not to block the one that would draw a card, still dealing its damage to the escorting creature.

    6. If a 2/5 is escorting a 2/2 looter the choice is pretty obvious. What if it's a 4/4 escorting a 1/1 looter? Or a 2/5 escorting a 1/1 deathtouch?

  5. I have not read through all the iterations in the previous threads, but are you not worried that the keyword would not be printed due to its possible interpretation as something not PG13?

    Otherwise I like the implementation of the original post. If 3 creatures escort another one, they all have to be blocked before that one can be blocked. It is very appealing and encaptures the feeling of people protecting someone.

    Black would have to pay life or mana for its creatures to escort,
    White would escort for free
    Green and Red would not escort
    Blue might escort.

    1. Not PG13? Because a modern escort is a prostitute? First, the mechanic doesn't feel like prostitution, second kids don't know about that kind of escort.

      Which "original post" do you mean, exactly?

    2. To me it just sounds too much like a tour guide, and not very combatish.

    3. I am sorry about the PG 13 you are right that kids would not get it, and probably adults either since I was not thinking in English when I wrote that. As far as the original post goes: the version on caravan guard is the most interesting to me and the less game breaking. I would put it in an environment with creatures that have bnuses when dealing combat damage to a player, and reduced removal in common (the second one is already something RnD have been doing)

  6. Man, this week sure has been escort-o-rama! I'm loving it, though - the discussions on this site are always amazing, as are your insights, Jay!


    By a better idea. I think the whole, "a creature is escorting this" wording is a great solution, but I dislike the 'targeting' aspect.

    How about...

    Escorted by Wolves (When this creature attacks with any Wolf creatures, those Wolves are escorting this creature. An escorted creature can't be blocked unless all creatures escorting it are also blocked.)

    This solves the "Doom Blade" problem since once a creature is dead, it's not escorting anymore.

    1. I suppose we could do "Escorted" "Escorted by one creature" "Escorted by a Wolf" "Escorted by Wolves…"

      Though I'm leaning toward Escort over Escorted, in which case that's all moot.

    2. Mwahahaha! Bass' crown is mine for a small part of a day. Cower in my modest majesty! :)

    3. You're moot, Jay! YOU'RE MOOT!

      And Jack... I cower... WITH RAGE! IMPOTENT RAGE!