Monday, December 9, 2013

Suvnica Week 17 Review: No Mercy (Ruthless Designs)

Today we'll be taking a look at the submissions for our second guild keyword challenge: Ruthless for the Radkar.


With Illustrate, it was very difficult to design for common for a wide variety of reasons. Still, it was the most designed-for rarity for that challenge. Most of the submissions wouldn't work at common for one reason or another, but everyone really gave a shot at it. With Ruthless, there were only two common submissions with the mechanic: one of them was a functional reprint of the selected example for the mechanic, and the other isn't actually a Ruthless card. I guess it makes sense, since the purpose of the exercises is to challenge, and not just to reach for the low-hanging fruit. 

In any event, on with the show.

Improved templates for Ruthless were suggested in the comments, and I felt this one was probably the clearest and most efficient. This guy is very efficient if you've hit your 1-drop, and kind of meh if you didn't, but that's how a lot of Ruthless cards are going to feel. I could see this printed at uncommon, but it's perfectly reasonable at common too. My one concern is that, at common, red is really going to want to claim haste as an ETB rider all for itself, since there isn't exactly a wealth of simple things for red to do at common as an ETB effect.

That's not Ruthless. It's more similar to the mechanic that inspired ruthless (or despotism), Power Hungry, which gave an ability that turned off if the power hungry creature wasn't the top of the food chain on your side of the board. The two mechanics were competing for the same spot as finalists for Radkar mechanic, and I eventually chose despotism over power hungry. It would be more relevant more often, and was more flexible in a number of ways. 

Even if we reword the card to match the real Ruthless trigger, I don't think that's a viable common. It's more likely uncommon. As worded, it's already increased the number of hoops the caster has to jump through - maybe mutual sacrifice can be avoided for something more along the lines of "target opponent" or "each opponent."


One tweak on Ruthless that I thought was interesting was requiring you to sacrifice the lesser creature for the effect. It addresses one of the major flaws with the mechanic - the flavor disconnect where the mechanic ends up feeling more like teamwork than dominance - but it's one more hoop to jump through for what will frequently be a minor effect. Ruthless already opens itself up to feel-bad moments, and requiring a sacrifice is just going to amplify that possibility.

That's fantastic, and does exactly what this mechanic is looking for. My only real concern is that the card is looking for two different creatures within a few words of each other -- another one of your creatures with lower power, and a creature on the other team to target and steal -- which may lead to some player confusion. It's hardly without precedent though.

This is one of those spots where the flavor disconnect of Ruthless, where it feels more like teamwork than dominance, sets in. It doesn't help that the effect is green. Red is secondary in trample, but doesn't really grant it to other creatures, and definitely not the entire team. +1/+0 and can only be blocked by 2+ creatures would solve the color pie issues, but not the flavor issues.

Unlike Incendiary Agent above, this is only taking a look at one other creature. Also a very clean application of the mechanic. I'm not sure whether I like having Haste as a static ability or as part of the Ruthless trigger - I see arguments for it either way.

The +1/+1 counter effect off of Ruthless might be the go-to bonus for the mechanic, to the point that I could see it being a vertical cycle. It emphasizes opportunism over collaboration, and can be done with some frequency, as seen with certain Ally cards from Zendikar.


First strike is an interesting choice. It's not at all unprecedented, but it's not entirely common to show up on black creatures either. Most of the time that it does, it's because there's a red component to the card. So while this can can work as a black card, it's a missed opportunity to make a gold card in a block that's always looking for them. I might also change the ruthless text to be an optional kill, since sometimes the only viable target might be on your side of the board and Ruthless is already going to have its fair share of feel bad moments.

I already discussed my dislike for sacrificing the checked creature, but I think that on a one-off card, it would work. This is that card. Again, I would modify the text to match the actual ruthless mechanic, but otherwise I think this is a solid rare for the mechanic.

I think I would drop intimidate from this guy - he has Pyroclasm to help him out with evasion already. I'm not sure how much fun the tension is going to be when deciding to play this guy and most likely turn off future Ruthless triggers for a while either.

This Augur has a little too much going on. It's checking power twice but then toughness once, has a sacrifice trigger on top of the standard Ruthless check, and has a hodge-podge of benefits attached. Especially when you take into consideration that this is only effective 99% of the time to draw a single card (although the ritual effect can go much bigger), it seems like a much more elegant design can be dug out from here while retaining some of the feel and power of the card.

Support Cards

To maximize Ruthless's effectiveness, players are going to need to run some low-power creatures. This wall helps enable the mechanic, while providing cheap early defense that scales. The Shade ability isn't particularly red, but it's not a terrible stretch to have that hybrid activation cost.

-X/-0 abilities are Blue. +X/+0 are primarily Red. This isn't really the simple black support card it wants to be.

-X/-X abilities, however, completely are. Shrivel is a great reprint for Ruthless, giving our mobsters an opportunity to unbalance the scales of the symmetrical detriment.

Another spot-on reprint.

So is this classic:

Working in a very similar space as Wall of Skulls. Both are viable options, and really if R&D had to choose between the two designs, it would come down to what needs the designers and developers needed filled.

This could be (and probably should be) mono-red. Black tends to only make tokens when there's a need for sacrifice fodder in Black's mechanical identity in the set, or as a rider on cards that themselves are a sacrifice outlet.

If ever there was a reason to have a -1/X creature, Ruthless is it. Firebreathing is redundant here with the Shade ability. If it needs to be gold, it could have first strike (although that might cause conniptions with a negative Power) or some other red ability. Also, once we're enabling Ruthless with such a weird power, maybe this is the best place to start messing around with the implications of that. 

Flavor Cards

I love this card to pieces, and as an enchantment, this is what I would have wanted out of a YMTC4 finalist. The only real complaint I have is the text length, but sometimes a card's just gotta read long.

Although the templating from Topple would apparently work just fine, I wanted to make sure that players knew they might only be able to choose from creatures on their side of the board, so I tweaked the text to be slightly more inelegant. It's a little strange to have this running alongside ruthless as a mechanic, since they're both looking at the same creative idea (power grabs) while one is looking at your side of the table and the other at your opponent's.

I have no idea whether this is terrible or broken, but either way I want to find out. I'm also not 100% sold on the templating there, but it might be the best way to get it to do what it wants to do.


And that's it. I'm going to get back to creating test decks. Once we have those together for Illustrate and Ruthless, we'll try to get some volunteers to playtest them and come back with notes on what is and is not working.

1 comment:

  1. After I submitted Rakdar Shade, I also used it in a weekend challenge. We decided to change its mana cost to {br}{br}. This makes it pretty good for BR decks, not quite as good for monoblack, and sort of ok for mono red. Plus it looks cooler.