Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Set in Four Cards: Frontier

Doomwand Brigand (Common)
Creature - Human Wandslinger
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may tap it and discard a card. If you do, target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn.

Dissolving Mirage (Common)
Return target nonland permanent to its owner's hand.
Prospect {2} ({2}, Discard this card: reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card in your hand and put all other cards revealed this way into your graveyard.)

Feral Sandwurm (Uncommon)
Creature - Wurm
Delve (Each card you exile from your graveyard while casting this spell pays for {1}.)
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each creature card exiled by its delving.

Viashino Rustler (Common)
Creature - Viashino Rogue
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, detain target creature an opponent controls. (Until your next turn, that creature can't attack or block and its activated abilities can't be activated.)


  1. This looks like a pretty clean start for Frontier, though I'm not sure if we need three different smoothing mechanics (assuming Doomwand Brigand's setup is replicated on other cards).

    1. It seems like more of a Delve enabler than a smoothing mechanic. Doomwand Brigand does seem to be a lot like kicker though, would we want to use that instead?

    2. Prospect finds lands to avoid screw, Brigand discards excess lands for spell effects to avoid flood, and delve helps with less extreme screw by letting you cast expensive cards after many turns without lands because creatures and spells end up in the bin.

    3. While I admit Delve can alleviate mana screw, I don't think of it as a smoothing mechanic. (No more so than, say, Flashback.)

  2. Looking good. I especially like Doomwand Brigand. A couple of questions:

    -Why are the outlaws the ones detaining people? And how is detain red?
    -No gold counters?!

    1. Gold could go here, but I'm not sure the world needs it. Gold counters, as printed on Gild, seem to want a gold-heavy environment if they're going to be a major set mechanic.

    2. I would have no problem using gold as the sole mana fixing mechanic in a not-remotely-multicolored Western set, but this implementation already has a ton of smoothing, and they play along similar lines.

  3. I'm not so sure about the replacing of guns with wands. Wands are pretty sparse in MtG, they kind of fit with the pointy hats and beards that usually surround wizards, that end up clashing with the self-described "magepunk" aesthetic

    1. My inspiration is this strip. I think it can be done in a magepunk way.

    2. The "Wandslinger" was the one bit of this I really didn't like. It just sounds really naff, and conjures a pretty naff mental picture. (AFAICT the Penny Arcade strip is meant to be naff as well, in a "deliberately trying too hard" kind of way.)

      If you can find a similar concept that feels a little different, I do like the idea of one-shot ETB spellshapers.

  4. I would put detain on sheriffs and lawbringers, not outlaws (especially not red ones).

    Should we be worried about prospect filling a player's graveyard and leading to dredge-style decks?

    1. It needs an "if you do" to not Hermit Druid your whole library away. I've spent a lot of time loving Dig, but I'm not all the way sold on Prospect, especially in Limited.

    2. I think W or U/W sheriffs with detain would feel far too much like "Azorius on the range". The intended flavor (which my name failed to convey, but appropriate art might) is that the Rustler will lasso you so that you're unable to interfere with his crimes.

    3. (Which is not to say detain will only be on outlaws, but that "tie 'em up" is a line uttered by both good guys and bad guys in a cowboy flick.)

    4. I don't think detain is the right pick for a Western-themed set. Western lawbringers are all about swift trials and swifter executions. The flavor of Azorius (and detain) is centered around bureaucratic inconvenience.

    5. Which, on the plus side, makes any White "punish-attackers" cards really good reprints.

    6. And here I think the red detain card is the best design of the bunch! I think mechanically it makes sense, as long as the mechanic is pushed (like this card) in an aggressive direction.

      This is my favorite "Set in Four Cards" yet.

    7. I like the idea of reusing detain as a "tie 'em up" outlaws' mechanic, but I think the flavour would need to make it very clear that's what's going on.

  5. Not that its particularly relevant, but Prospect is entirely broken in eternal formats for anything less that 4 mana. It's a 2 mana, uncounterable win the game.

  6. This made me want to dig up some old designs, which led me to wondering how folks here would feel about this Yawgmoth's Will variant I had cooked up:

    Ill-Gotten Goods
    Sorcery (M)
    Lose 1 life for each exiled card you own, then return those cards to your hand. Exile Ill-Gotten Goods.

    Ignoring any developmental issues — as balancing such a card would be a challenge — the question is whether it would be appropriate to enabled this sort of manipulation of the exile zone.

    My original rationale (and inspiration for the design) is that the exile zone is functioning as a "laundering" mechanism that helps avoid the awkward tension that would typically exist when pairing a Regrowth-effect with Delve, and as such it doesn't totally disrupt the perception of the exile zone as a permanent condition. However, I recognize that R&D wasn't especially excited to have printed Misthollow Griffin, so it's obviously debatable that such a card could ever be printed.

    1. I am really uncomfortable with this. Both in terms of being able to get back that many cards (especially ones that should be gone for good), as well as the fact that exiling IGG doesn't even stop it, considering you can loop two of them. Normally exiling a card helps to make sure that it can't be too oppressive - Praetor's Council, Temporal Mastery, Rescue from the Underworld - but here it's a bonus. I really don't like this.

  7. ETB or attack triggers are not how I would implement wandslinging. ETB misses the element of reusability, and bluffing (finger on the trigger) found in a classic gunfight. Instead of battlewands, it feels more like everyone comes in with a single grenade. Attack triggers are good except they make the effect very one sided, and gunflights are all about each participant getting to shoot at the other.

    I understand that ETB and attack triggers are simple for commons, under NWO, but nothing says wandslinging even belongs in common. Whatever the effect is, we can agree it’ll be some form of targeted removal or damage or combat trick, which should be tightly controlled at common anyway. And if the effect is reusable, then that needs to be mitigated some other way, either by rarity, complexity, or cost.

    All this is to say, I’d like to see a rebranding of “T, Discard a card:” as the wandslinging trigger. Right now in Standard there are 14 non-mana producing commons with Tap effects, so it is possible at a very low number (less than five) to have a token representation of wandslinging at common (for as-fan) even if the mechanic lives mostly at higher rarities.

    1. ...more on Wandslingers.

      One of the best things about Frontier using wands rather than guns is that wands are fueled by magic. So although the end result may be largely the same, each color’s wands can fall within its range of spell effects in the color pie while retaining the flavor of a wandslinger. I see the effect in White, Black and Red. Here are just a few ways to represent a flavor of wandsligers in those colors.

      “Deputy” White Common – T, Discard a card: NAME deals 1 damage to target attacking or blocking creature.
      “Posse” White Uncommon – T, Discard a card: NAME deals 1 damage to each attacking creature.
      “Sheriff” White Rare – T, Discard a card: Destroy target attacking or blocking creature.

      “Outlaw” Black Common – T, Discard a card: Tap target creature. It gets -1/-1 until end of turn.
      “Quickdraw” Black Uncommon – T, Discard X cards: Tap X target creatures. They get -1/-1 until end of turn.
      “Hanged Honcho” Black Rare – T, Discard a card: NAME deals 2 damage to target creature or player. You gain 2 life.

      “Sixshooter” Red Common – T, Discard X cards: NAME deals X damage to target player.
      “Sniper” Red Uncommon – T, Discard a card: NAME deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
      “Shotblaster” Red Rare – T, Discard a card: NAME deals 3 damage to target creature.

    2. ...last bit about Wandslingers.

      Even though it helps sell the flavor of shot-charged wands and balances the power of the effect, new players just don’t like discarding cards. One way to bring them on board is a keyword for some of the set’s other spells that rewards you for pitching them. Not necessarily a cost reduction effect like madness, but something along those lines. If wandslingers are in White, Black and Red, this could also give you a reason to splash Blue or Green spells with the keyword in your wandslinger deck.

      Spellcharged (When you discard this card to pay an activated ability cost, copy that ability. You may choose new targets for the copy.)

      This is super parasitic, but that’s not necessarily bad, especially if there are several other modular mechanics in the set, like Delve and Prospect. Every set has some parasitic mechanics in it. It makes the downside of discard into an upside. For Limited play, it can exist on cards with marginal playability or limited use to support wandslingers at higher rarities. Like scry in Theros, you can tack it onto spells pretty easily.