Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tesla: Mechanical Engineering

It’s been a productive week for Tesla! Between our thematic explorations and the most recent Weekend Art Challenge  we’ve generated a ton of ideas. I don’t have room to go over all of them, but there were some definite common threads. The plan is to identify them so we can find their best executions and fit them together in a cohesive theme. Without further ado: 

Whether we have robots killing off all human life, big corporations working their employees to death, or Steampunk engineers messing with volatile forces, the story boils down to the dangers of deifying progress. With that much emphasis, the progress itself had better be visible. The most popular implementation was using Kindle-like mechanics to improve your spells with each casting. I especially liked Chops’ tweak:

Refine solves most of Kindle’s major issues. For one thing, the mechanic’s no longer parasitic. Moreover, we don’t need awkward cards like Pardic Firecat to make the ability relevant in draft. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to convey progress, but if we follow the Kindle route this version has my vote.

A few of the possible themes we’re pursuing demand a way to show people moving beyond their humanity. Most of those have been inherent to the creature cards themselves, but Evan Jones proposed another approach.

Augment ends up playing a bit more like Rancor than a standard equipment, and that's generally a good thing since it allows us to print augmentations with more appealing costs tht won't dominate the battlefield. Of course, equipment work the way they do for a reason: players expect to be able to move them, but adhering strictly to implant flavor should quash that expectation.

All Together Now
Any setting involving class struggle, loss of identity, or the formation of a hive mind is going to need to show synchronization. That feeling is easiest to capture with a mechanic like Conspire which uses multiple creatures for one task, and Inanimate came up with the cleanest version yet.

Galvanize doesn’t have quite as much game play value as Convoke because noncreature artifacts just do fewer things, but Convoke was the best designed mechanic in the entire Ravnica block, so I'm pretty optimistic.

Assembly Line
Almost any technological theme is going to benefit from a mechanic that can convey building something greater than the sum of its parts. After all, what else is technology? And with a description like that, it’s hard to resist trying to make this guy work.

That sort of goal is dangerous; it can lead us to make something less fun than it could be just to fit the requirements. That said, players are clamoring for contraptions, so we should at least try to deliver. We just need to be careful to judge the results objectively. My favorite idea thus far came independently from both Tight and Nich Grayson: tapping enough creatures at once to power your contraption.

That said, it’s certainly not perfect, and in trying to clean up the game play with a trigger I may have made it impossible to sync this version up with Steamflogger Boss. Hopefully we’ll find a good implementation for contraptions, but if not we’ll still want to convey the MacGuyver feel in some other way.

Sweet Ride
A rider-mount mechanic is something of a holy grail for Magic design, and figuring out vehicles runs into many of the same problems. Most of our attempts have ended up ignoring the specific creatures crewing the vessel, but Sanctaphrax came up with the idea of riffing on equipment.

Board keeps the creatures feeling like they’re on the same ship by always attacking and blocking as a unit. Players might assume they’re blocked as a unit too, and if that’s the case we’ll want to match that intuition. The tough part is doing so without falling into any of the numerous pitfalls collectively known as Banding.

Power Dynamics
A lot of our potential themes have undertones of haves and have-nots. We might well take after the real industrial revolution with masses of disenfranchised workers subjugated by the few in power.

I was all set to make this care about power, but Jay Treat recently ran an informal poll on Twitter and found that most of us agree about what qualifies as smaller: a creature with either less power or less toughness, and that doesn't have a greater number in the other stat. Assuming that works, Overlord conveys its concept pretty clearly. But the real kicker is the gameplay implications in a set full of equipment: you want to give the overlords all the toys that would normally be best to spread to your little creatures.

Grisly Discovery
Some of our theme ideas already have things going wrong, but if we opt to evoke enlightenment or a brighter future we’ll need our conflict to start out hidden. That could involve discovering a conspiracy among the plane’s leaders, disrupting the delicate balance of nature’s forces, or letting loose something primordial and terrifying.

Morph fits the bill and simultaneously lends us a bunch of conveniently nondescript creatures for workers who’ve lost their identities. Perhaps face-down creatures could represent normal workers who serve as vessels for whatever horrors are being unleashed upon the plane.

On the topic of people poking around where they shouldn’t, we might want Teslans salvaging wonders from a lost civilization; alternatively, the same mechanics would work equally well in a setting where technology has already brought about society’s collapse. Courtesy of Aura:

Salvage has a lot of potential to do crazy things at higher rarities since it’s basically a more limited version of Imprint. Imprint never made sense at common, but luckily the way it’s set up allows Salvage to ignore the specifics of exiled cards without feeling weird.

Up Against Nature
And on the subject of collapse, Benjamin Wheeler came up with a very interesting take on a rusting mechanic. Unfortunately, it mostly reads as a downside, so I decided to flip the concept on its head using a drawback inspired by Nich Grayson’s Depth.

This current iteration would need a lot of artifact creatures to be justifiable, but rust could be more widely applied to all artifacts and up the cost for activated abilities as well.


A lot of these mechanics have promise, but could use some iteration. Others are hitting on good thematic elements, but aren't delivering good enough gameplay. Take a crack at designing a better mechanic for any of these areas, or for something else thematic and underserved. Then next week we'll use those ideas to figure out where we're going with Tesla.


  1. A note: I feel like Artifact Creatures need to feel more 'artifact-y' than they have in the past. Theros (for the most part) knocked it out of the ballpark in designing enchantment creatures that truly FELT like enchantments. Yet colored artifact creatures kinda got grandfather-clause'd into just being boring old creatures with a spiffy extra type.

    I feel like making colored artifact creatures feel more like artifacts both helps with resonating flavor, and with making satisfying gameplay. Now you won't wonder, "Why is this an artifact, again?" You'll clearly see it. It could be as simple as making all artifact creatures have a "transhumanist" flavor, or having them mention artifacts in their textbox - or we could even try to research what makes an artifact "feel" like an artifact, and have all artifact creatures replicate those conditions.

    I personally lean towards the latter. And here are my 'conditions' for artifact-iness:

    1.) Tap abilities.
    2.) Charge counters.
    3.) Interactions with other artifacts.
    4.) "Fueled" - they have limited usages.
    5.) Color-fixing.
    6.) "Colorless matters."

    Having as many colored artifact creatures as possible fulfill one or more of these conditions will help them feel artifact-y.

    Now, that last note is interesting - colorless matters. I think an essential part of Tesla is the idea of 'innovation' - and what better way to represent innovation than an entire new resource? The eras of industry are defined by their fuel - steam, diesel, and now renewable, it is energy that defines progress. So capturing the flavor of a new resource is important! And I think making "colorless matter" is how to do that. Heck, steam is even sorta colorless. (:

    A simple way to make colorless matter is to ask for it.

    " Nulpower — If colorless mana was spent to [cast this spell / activate this ability], then [foo]. "

    This would help make colored artifacts still FEEL like artifacts - since colorlessness is such an important aspect of the artifact identity - while also serving as an exciting new build-around mechanic, encouraging people to play cards that produce colorless mana, and creating interesting deckbuilding decisions.

    TL;DR: I propose that colored artifact creatures need to have some shared features that define them as artifacts. Furthermore, I think introducing a new colorless-matters mechanic that appears on colored artifact creatures is the best way to make them feel like artifacts, and be exciting and different than past artifact creatures.

    1. I've seen several custom sets play with "If only colourless mana was spent to cast/activate this" or "Do X for each colourless mana spent to cast/activate this". I prefer the second, but I'm not hugely keen on either of them. For them to work in Limited you need a lot of cards at common that can produce colourless mana. Cf Coldsnap which was a small set and had five common snow lands plus six uncommon snow lands to power the assorted {S} symbols. We'd need at least 10 commons that made colourless mana, even if the normal Nulpower implementation is simply {1} or {X}{@}. If you start having costs of {2} or {2/U} and asking people to pay genuinely colourless mana for them, it just warps the set too much.

      However, although I'm sceptical about that particular expression of your vision, I definitely agree that it'd be great to make any coloured artifact creatures share creative and/or mechanical elements to make them feel artifact-y.

    2. You make a very strong point... But note that I said, "If colorless mana was spent to cast this", not "If ONLY". It's a lot easier, then. (:

      Thanks for the agreement on the other parts! I'm trying to find some genuinely 'artifact-y' things for colored artifact creatures to do - if you have any ideas, please share,

    3. I definitely agree with the sentiment that artifact creatures—and particularly colored ones—need to feel like artifacts beyond the type line.

      I suspect Jules omitted colorless-matters mechanics intentionally, but if we're going to continue that discussion, I will raise the possibility of using a mana type like snow. It's unlikely to prove useful, but we can't be sure if we don't at least talk it through.

      Now we could make a new supertype just like snow and call it 'advanced' or 'tech' or 'steam-powered,' in which case we fall into the exact same traps that snow fell into. I would argue snow was more not-entirely-worthwhile than actively terrible, but I already know a way we can do better.

      We can key off of mana produced by artifacts. This sounds fairly similar to keying off of colorless mana, but it works with all artifact mana sources (and not with any lands [but 6]). It's backward compatible with all of magic, and caring about it in this set doesn't require us to retcon any old cards because it's always been there, we've just never cared before.

      What does that gain us over colorless mana? The upside is that we don't have to print a bunch of colorless lands (which would inherently push the format toward mono-colored decks, something dangerous without additional support), but the downside is that we now need a whole bunch of mana rocks. Maybe we want a lot of acceleration (factories) to help us churn out our fatties (giant mecha), but if we don't, some of those rocks can simply transmute mana rather than produce more (pushing us toward multicolored decks).

      I don't think that's a huge step up, but it's not nothing.

    4. Yeah, I've considered "artifact mana" before, but I actually felt opposite - I always felt like "colorless mana matters" would be a more natural theme to explore, so I proposed it first.

      However, all of your points are correct, and I can now see the upsides that artifact mana offers. It also has the bonus of making it very clear why artifact creatures are artifacts - they care about artifact mana! (3)

    5. FWIW, I don't think caring about artifact mana is more natural than colorless.

    6. Another option: make a colorless basic land that would show up in the land slot of each pack, along with the others. It should be available to add to your limited decks as well. It would not be too difficult to supply the new lands to TOs.

    7. I'm in full support of giving artifact creatures some more identity, but I don't see colorless mana matters being that way. It's basically adding a sixth color to the game, with very little discernible benefit. I'm not thrilled about artifact mana either because I just don't think mana production is a good place to put focus without huge gameplay benefits, but it's certainly a much more promising option in my mind.

  2. Also, I've actually made a version of Board for a mini-set design a long time ago. A problem with my keyword - "Vessel" - is that it needs the Ships to be creatures, which I know is a bit of outdated design. But it is quite the fun design!

    Vessel X (Whenever this creature attacks, you may have up to X creatures you control attack without vessel on it. Those creatures cannot be blocked unless this is blocked. A creature can only attack on one vessel at a time.)

    1. So if my guy attacks on a flying vessel, my opponent needs one flying creature to block the vessel and then any of his creatures can block my other guy?

    2. ...Yeah, haha! That is really weird. Maybe the flying guy manages to ground it or something? :P

      Just to note, not really suggesting the mechanic, as I think the current iteration of Board is probably the one to pursue. It was just a fun note.

    3. Ooh, that's really interesting. It may still be fiddly or confusing, but it seems a good way of having vehicles-as-creatures without all the confusion of banding. To me, it works somewhat intuitively -- first you have to block the vessel, then you have to baord it and fight the crew! And a flying vessel needs a flying blocker, but only one, ground creatures can board it once it's stopped.

    4. Yeah, apart from my flying flavor-fail, I like it a lot.
      Not like we stop elephants from carrying swords.

    5. Agreed, I'd at least like to see if that's intuitive to some players before dismissing this version. It's really clean!

    6. Thanks for the compliments, guys! I'm glad my sidenote turned out to be helpful.

      jack, that's exactly what I was thinking after Jay brought it up.

    7. Here's a pretty trivial refinement:

      Artifact Creature—Vessel
      Board N (As this Vessel attacks, choose up to N attacking non-Vessel creatures to board it this turn. Boarding creatures can't be blocked unless their vessel is. A creature can only board one vessel each turn.)

  3. Refine is pretty cool. Scaling by artifacts in graveyard would work as well (in a very different direction) but I like matching casting costs.

    Also a big thumbs up for Galvanize.

    I don't know "attack and block together" means, but it scares me. Might I suggest Board from Sturmkraft?

    Does anyone have a good proposal for the reminder text for "smaller" at common? I like the mechanic with "lesser power", and I'm dubious about "smaller".

    1. Borrowing from Evolve: (A creature is smaller if that creature has less power and toughness than this creature.)

    2. Small tweaks: (A creature is smaller if it has less power and less toughness than this creature.)

    3. I think the consensus was that a 1/2 is smaller than a 2/2, and a 2/1 is smaller than a 2/2, but a 1/3 and a 3/1 are neither smaller nor larger than a 2/2 (or each other). So this reminder text won't cover all bases - the only things smaller than a 2/2 by this definition would be a 1/1 or a 0/1.

      My attempt: (A creature is smaller if that creature has less power or toughness than this creature and doesn't have greater power or toughness than this creature.) Unfortunately the repetition is probably too confusing, so this needs some work.

    4. I liked the evolve wording because it seemed simple but also usually gave you what you wanted: "when a creature with less power or less toughness ETB..." But I think it would still need a proper keyword or to be spelled out each time, I don't think you can say "smaller" without reminder text and expect people to know.

    5. I think most players will see "smaller," immediately think they know but not be sure, and then when they check learn that they were right and never question it again. The question is whether that mostly-inevitable check warrants reminder text or not.

      Consider that many keywords don't list all the rules you need to know to play them on the card, even with reminder text.

    6. Honestly I think it depends how uniform the smaller intuition is. If anyone who's unsure will ask their opponent and get the same intuition, I think we're fine. If there's any room for misunderstanding, we need reminder text and it's really hard to spell this out concisely.

    7. Also I'd completely forgotten the Sturmkraft version of Board:

      Board (1, tap an untapped non-Vehicle creature you control: CARDNAME gets +X/+0 for as long as that creature remains tapped, where X is that creature's power. Board only as a sorcery.)

      It's a good one and I'm all for removing the weird rules corner cases of banding-esque effects.

  4. My thoughts on various mechanics:

    Insight - I like it, but it doesn't seem to fit the rest of the stuff proposed for Tesla all that well.

    Landfall - Again, doesn't feel too Tesla-y to me.

    Uncover - Seems too narrow for a keyword/ability word.

    Template - Dunno, would have to see it in action.

    Husk - I like it. Not sure how much design space it has, though.

    Double-Faced Cards - Neat, but they use up a lot of our...creative budget? Not sure what the right term is but there's a limit to how many wacky things we can put in.

    Sync - Not a fan. Don't find it interesting.

    Mecha - Awesome, if we can get it to work.

    Cogs - We should definitely do something cog-like, but implementation is gonna be tricky.

    Refine - Not a big fan. A deck full of the same mana cost just seems off, to me.

    Augment - Me likey. This gets across the flavour of cyborg-ization in a simple, elegant, and meaningful way.

    Galvanize - Maybe. I don't find it exciting but it looks okay.

    Assembly - Seems too convoluted. There was a version I saw on Monday Morning Maro that I liked once, where the creature created a 1/1 attacking Contraption whenever it attacked.

    Vehicles - I really hope we can get these to work properly. I'll write another comment just for Vehicles because I have a lot to say about them.

    Overlord - It's okay, but I don't feel like the Overlord is actually oppressing its subjects.

    Morph - I like it but it's a big commitment.

    Salvage - Not sure about how it should trigger, but I like the idea of removing Artifacts from the graveyard for effects.

    Reclaim - Too complex.

    So I'd like to use Augment, and if we can I'd like to include Cogs and Vehicles. Mecha, Morph, and non-Mecha Double-Faced Cards are all cool but I think we can only manage one of the three. If we need more mechanics we can use Galvanize, Assembly, or Overlord.

  5. Okay, now for Vehicles.

    First of all, let me say that the version you've got up there is much better than the version I came up with. It's like reverse equipment - multiple creatures attached to an artifact rather than the opposite.

    Only change I'm not totally sold on is the removal of the limit on creatures per vehicle.

    Also, I really like the word "aboard". Adds lots of interesting possibilities, like a creature with "each other creature aboard the same vessel as this gets..." or an artifact destruction spell with "if that artifact was a vessel, this deals 2 damage to each creature aboard it" and so on.

    I think the biggest problem is determining how attacking and blocking together should work. If I tap down one creature aboard the vehicle, can the others still attack? If one blocks, do the others have to block the same creature or can they block different ones? Do they all have to attack the same player/planeswalker when they all attack? Should one creature be able to block them all?

    My current idea is to say something like "whenever a creature aboard this vessel attacks a player or planeswalker or blocks a creature, all other creatures aboard this vessel must attack or block that player, planeswalker, or creature as well if able". It's wordy, but I think it's pretty clear.

    Anyway, here are a few directions I think we could go with this mechanic:

    Bohrian Castle 1
    Artifact - Vessel (C)
    Creatures aboard Bohrian Castle get +0/+2 and have Defender.
    Board 1
    1: Target creature gets off Bohrian Castle.

    Marvellous Digging Machine 4
    Artifact - Vessel (U)
    All creatures aboard Marvellous Digging Machine get +1/+1 and can't be blocked by creatures with Flying.
    Board 1

    Ship Of The Dead 5
    Artifact - Vessel (R)
    XB: Return target creature with converted mana cost X from your graveyard to play aboard Ship Of The Dead. When it gets off or dies, exile it.

    Edison, Assimilation Ship 7
    Legendary Artifact - Vessel (M)
    Creatures aboard Edison get +2/+2 and have flying and indestructible.
    Whenever a creature that was dealt damage by a creature aboard Edison this turn dies, return it to play under your control aboard Edison.
    Board 4

    1. I like this implementation a lot. The examples look interesting and fun, and the explanatory text deals with a lot of the banding problems such as those Evan mentions below.

    2. I don't think we need a rule about creatures attacking or blocking together. First of all, it takes a really intuitive mechanic and makes it more complicated. That would be fine if the complexity resulted in something cooler, but here it restricts rather than rewards you for understanding it.

      In the same way that it was decided early on not to worry about how Squadron Hawk can hold a Warhammer or how a Krosan Cloudscraper can wear the same boots as Acidic Slime and Squire, I think we should aim for a mechanically enjoyable implementation and accept that it will be silly sometimes.

      And whose to say that two crew members on a ship can't fire separate ballistas? Who says every member of a pirate crew needs to board the same imperial trade ship?

      Gylean Police Skiff 4
      Artifact - Vessel (U)
      1, Tap one untapped creature aboard CARDNAME: Tap target creature.
      1, Tap two untapped creatures aboard CARDNAME: CARDNAME does 3 damage to target creature or player.
      Board 2

    3. Can we replace "get off" with "disembark"?

    4. Disembark sounds fine to me.

      I like the attacking/blocking together thing, but maybe it won't work out. I guess we'll find out as Tesla design progresses.

      Might be possible to have the basic vehicle mechanic say nothing about attacking/blocking together while still putting that restriction on some vehicles.

    5. I agree that the original bit was too undefined. Luckily, you've all come up with some awesome suggestions! I am worried about the wordiness, but Sanctaphrax's version clears everything up marvelously while remaining intuitive. I could also see letting the creatures act alone.

      On the specific words, I didn't use disembark because I didn't want to use embark for the other half, but that was just me falling into the classic trap of forgetting that the players only see the final version. I'm on board with the idea.

  6. Vehicles are an awesome theme that Magic hasn't hit yet and I think we need to make an honest attempt at doing. However, the current version (creatures attack and block together) feels a *lot* like banding, and not in a good way.

    Example: You attack with a creature with flying. I have a creature with reach that's on board a vehicle with non-reach creatures and it can't block - even though the *sole purpose* of reach is to let it block flying things!

    1. Agreed, luckily some other people have come up with implementations that address that issue.

  7. Regarding Morph; Maro mentioned the possibility of other mechanics that use the 2/2 colorless creature, as that part is hardcoded into the rules, but it doesn't have to be called Morph or work like it. Is there something there?

    1. Factory Boss 3B
      Creature-Human Jerkface (cmn)
      When ~ ETB, enlist. (To enlist, put the top card of your deck OTB. It's a 2/2 colorless creature.)

    2. Maro has been fairly emphatic that this kind of thing can't be done (because then Ixidor and Cloudshift would break the space-time continuum).

    3. How is this different than making a 2/2 token?

    4. Enlist {4}{WB}
      Enchantment-Aura (unc)
      Enchant creature
      When ~ enchants a creature. Turn it face-down. It's a 2/2 colorless creature.
      You control enchanted creature as long as its face down.

      Still have to make facedown matter to justify it, and I'm pretty sure we have to be able to turn things face up to do it, so, apart from Morph-like effects, I'm not sure face-down has a future.

    5. I'm pretty confident that Maro, if he did make that claim, is wrong. The rules already say "400.4a If an instant or sorcery card would enter the battlefield, it remains in its previous zone", which deals with Cloudshift. They could easily acquire an SBA saying "If an instant or sorcery card is on the battlefield, it's put into its owner's graveyard. If an instant or sorcery object that's not a card is on the battlefield, it ceases to exist."

      That said, Jay is clearly right that we'd need to make facedown matter. One topic that came up in the Suvnica project is that you could have colourless matters, which ties in with (non-coloured) artifact creatures as well as face-down creatures. Circeus has some examples over here on Multiversa.

    6. There are certainly other things that can be done with face down cards, but the space is more limited than it appears. The only real reasons to use it over more flexible DFCs are to save on printing costs, to turn existing permanents face down, and for surprise factor. I find the last most compelling.

    7. Agreed. The point of morph is that you don't know what the creature is, and I believe our designs should stay true to that. There may be room for printing spells with morph-- e.g. with a rule that puts instants and sorceries onto the stack immediately if they would enter the battlefield or be turned face up. Otherwise, though, I think there's very little design space in face-down cards. They are directly defined by the game rules as being 2/2 colorless creatures that cost 3 to cast, so there isn't much room to mess with that.

  8. I have to say, I'm less than impressed with the options laid out here. A lot of them feel very grindy and repetitive, as well as being overly philosophical in their inspiration. In contrast, I believe it's crucial to the feel of a steampunk world to create big moments and a sense of adventure-- more like Zendikar than Mirrodin. Mecha and vehicles both do that, but they step on each other's toes and have both run into thorny implementation issues. My guess is that we'll end up with some version of one or the other as the set's marquee mechanic, but not with both.

    There's also some potential in the direction of "using artifacts to do things", but Galvanize-- the only such mechanic shown here-- seems like a poor implementation: it reads badly yet is dangerously close to Affinity. The "operate" mechanic-- which I proposed in both the thematic exploration and the Weekend Art Challenge-- eventually got to a [multi]kicker-esque implementation that people seemed to like, but it doesn't show up here at all.

    The set does need themes beyond creatures-combining and artifacts. Colorless is tempting, but will tend to conflict with any artifact theme and often runs into logistical (i.e. Limited) issues. If I had to pick anything from the ideas listed here, I'd go with Refine-- it's novel and exciting, feels steampunky, and creates lots of interesting decisions for deckbuilders.

    One further idea: If we're doing Mecha in something like their traditional form, it would be nice to have a further use for double-faced cards (just as Innistrad had DFCs besides the Werewolves). There's a lot that could be done with this kind of design space, and we haven't really explored it so far-- so it might be worth looking into.

    1. Jungle Explorer {1}{G}
      Creature—Human Scout (cmn)
      Explore (CARDNAME deals damage to players in the form of exiling cards from the top of their library)
      Whenever CARDNAME explores a land card, gain 1 life.

    2. That's quite the bold new interpretation of mill! I think I like it-- especially in Limited-- but it would run into the same kinds of practical challenges that Infect did. That's not at all a deal-breaker, though, and I do appreciate how this gets at the themes of adventure and curiosity.

    3. This mechanic seems interesting and exciting to me.

    4. Taking it even further…

      Jungle Explorer 1G
      Creature—Human Scout (cmn)
      Explore Land (CARDNAME deals damage to players in the form of revealing cards from the top of their library. When it does, you may play a land card from among them. Their own puts the rest of the cards revealed this way on the bottom of his or her library in random order.)

      Perhaps too far, but as always, you don't know where the boundaries are if you don't push them.

    5. This is fascinating, and Land in particular is nice because you don't have to worry about having the right color mana (or a "you may use all mana as gold mana" clause), and nearly every opponent should have land. I could definitely see a set using just "Explore land" and leaving the variable open for further iteration at a later date.

      Likewise, this seems like the perfect mechanic for a land-matters battlecruiser set - if we ever re-investigate Frontier, I'm testing this ASAP.

    6. I'm a little bit wary of the milling version because it's tough to make the numbers work so that they're threats to your opponent without all having deathtouch by virtue of high power. The land playing version, on the other hand, I love. The biggest point of concern is that hitting a player won't feel like it does enough. One option is the far less clean letting you cast a card with CMC<=the amount of damage dealt. That would also alleviate the feel bad of hitting with two of these on the same turn and only being able to play one land.

      As for Ipaulsen's comments, I actually like the latest version of Operate a lot. There was just limited space and since a lot of these mechanics were tough to grokk I opted for the more straightforward demonstration of "using artifacts to do things." These are not intended to be a definitive list of mechanics to tweak, just some examples of mechanics that play around in space I think is worth exploring.

  9. I absolutely love the concept of Refine and I think it plays in a really interesting space. Flavor wise it would work better with a name like "Iterate" or "Develop" to play up the idea that the more you perform the action (in this case the action of casting 2 CMC cards, the better you get and therefore the stronger the spell. refine aka to improve (something) by making small changes, in particular make (an idea, theory, or method) more subtle and accurate. would make more sense if you were reducing the casting cost of the spell (although it does make sense if you think of it as increasing efficiency.)

    Iteration definition:
    repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem.

    Develop definition:
    grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate. (which I think fits perfectly in the setting as well as for the ability and would be my pick)

    This would be a great ability for Red/Blue I think.

    Research Data U
    Develop - Draw a card then draw an additional card for each other card in your graveyard that costs U.

    Iterative Elemental 1R
    Creature - elemental
    Develop - CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it, plus an additional +1/+1 counter on it for each other card in your graveyard with a casting cost of 1R

    Carbo-flux Engine 3
    Develop - CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it, plus an additional charge counter for each other card in your graveyard that cost 3.
    T: add X to your mana pool, where X is equal to the number of charge counters on CARDNAME.

    1. another option is to not limit the spell by exact cost, and instead limit it to CMC.

      Iterative Elemental 1R
      Creature - elemental
      Develop - CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it, plus an additional +1/+1 counter on it for each other card in your graveyard with a converted mana cost equal to 2.

    2. Research Data feels a bit scary at just U.

    3. My problem with converted mana cost version is that it should not appear on common cards. From Scars block on, CMC has appeared on two common cards total. Two. Divine Offering and Driver of the Dead.

      I like both versions, but they each have trade-offs.

    4. If we commit to CMC, we only pay for it on the first common a player encounters with it, after that it's a sunk cost. That said, I like actual mana cost version.

      Note that refine has fairly limited design space. It's great one two- and three-mana spells, weaker on one- and four- and almost unusable on five- and six-mana spells.

    5. I'm honestly surprised how much love Refine is getting.

      Let me explain why I don't like it.

      1. It encourages decks to consist almost entirely out of cards with the same cost, which doesn't make for interesting decks.

      2. It's tricky to balance. Making Refine cards that are decent with no Refine effect and not broken when your graveyard is stocked is kind of hard. I'm pretty sure Research Data is broken and Superior Firepower looks breakable to me.

      3. I don't see any flavour to it. Mana cost isn't much of a thing, in the story of the game. What exactly does it mean, narratively, for a card to have Refine?

      4. I can't think of anything really cool to do with it.

    6. Your points are legitimate and well taken, Sanctaphrax, but I disagree.

      1. Yes, Refine is linear. But it's no more so than (say) tribal-- pretty much the definition of an effect that makes for interesting decks-- and arguably less restrictive than stuff like devotion and infect. It's also in tension with the traditional strategy of 'curving out'-- which is maybe good and maybe not, but in any case will limit the prevalence of the mechanic in deckbuilding.

      2. Yes, as regards the current iteration, I agree with you-- it could get out of hand quite easily. But there are good alternatives that don't have this problem:

      Refine-- If there is another card costing 1R in your graveyard, EFFECT.

      Refine-- You may exile another card costing 1R from your graveyard as you cast this. If you do, EFFECT.

      At that point it's easy to design cards where the main effect is 'good enough' and the Refine effect is gravy.

      3. It's referring to the process of experimentation and iteration. The idea is that if you've 'studied' casting a certain kind of spell previously, you'll do it more effectively in the future. As to mana costs being relevant to the nature of a spell, look no further than devotion for an example of how Magic can make this work well with flavor.

      4. You can use discard and recursion effects to create single-card synergies on Refine cards. You can make cards with large or unusual casting costs and spectacular Refine effects. You can make cards that turn into famously overpowered spells when Refine is on. Here's a design that combines all three:

      Right or Wrong 3U
      Reveal the top four cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.
      Refine-- If a card costing 3U is in your graveyard, reveal the top five cards of your library instead.

    7. 1. I think the tension with curving out is bad. Curving out isn't just optimal, it's also fun. I'd rather encourage it. This might not be an insurmountable problem, especially if Refine is combined with Morph, but I think it's a problem.

      2. Good idea. I think the Threshold-like design is much better than the Storm-like design. I'd prefer the first proposal, probably with an option for cards that only get refined when there are two or even more cards with the same cost in the graveyard.

      3. Makes sense.

      4. Right Or Wrong does look interesting.

      Alright, Maybe this'll work out after all. I'm still not sold, but I'm prepared to be convinced. I guess it comes down to whether the Refine cards that come out over the next little while are impressive or not.

    8. I agree(d) with Sanctraphrax's first two points, and I think threshold-1 Refine addresses those issues pretty well. Would want a quick playtest before going much further down the road.

    9. Also want to put out, if we're worried about refine decks being too repetitive (although I would love to make an all-costing-R deck), CMC does a good job of branching that out.

    10. I'm sold on threshold-1 Refine being sufficiently interesting and developable.

    11. I agree. Threshold 1 Refine gets my vote.

    12. I'd bet Threshold 1 Refine plays pretty similarly in limited, but being able to branch out beyond scaling effects gives us a lot more design space and should make the mechanic more developable for constructed. I'm on board with trying that version first.

    13. Another idea for refine, trying to capture the flavor of iterative experimentation with magic.

      Refine - as you cast ~, you may exile a card in your GY with CMC one less than ~. If you do, BONUS EFFECT.

      I think it plays into a lot of what we were trying to accomplish with cog mechanics also - the feeling that we're building something. Would work well in a set that used GY as a resource, as many Tesla designs have been leaning towards.

    14. The gameplay's certainly good here, the question is if it's enough better than the cost matching version to justify the big leap in comprehension complexity. Sounds like something deserving of a playtest.

    15. 'Lower' seems just as reasonable as "one less" but simpler, which then makes me ask why not just any card of matching type?

      Refine — As you cast ~, you may exile a card in your GY that shares a type with it. If you do, BONUS EFFECT.

  10. Here's a pitch for something that can hopefully work on vehicles or in an assembly line:

    Crew X (When this attacks, you may tap up to X creatures you control. For each creature tapped this way, ~ gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

    Also possible: "attacks or blocks" "at the beginning of each combat" or "until the beginning of your next turn."

    1. Tesla Wardriver 4
      Artifact Creature - Vessel
      Crew 4 (When this attacks, you may tap up to X creatures you control. For each creature tapped this way, ~ gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

      Reined Drake 3U
      Creature - Drake
      When Reined Drake becomes tapped, target creature (target artifact creature?) gains flying until end of turn.

      Cannon Magus 2R
      Creature - Human Wizard
      When Cannon Magus becomes tapped, it deals damage equal to target creature you control’s power to another target creature or player.

      Training Vessel 1W
      Artifact Creature - Vessel (r)
      Crew 3 (When this attacks, you may tap up to three creatures you control. For each creature tapped this way, CARDNAME gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)
      Whenever a creature without a +1/+1 counter on it crews CARDNAME, put a +1/+1 counter on it and CARDNAME.

    2. Exalted plays pretty well, so this doesn't seem like an unreasonable starting point. The max number is clearly developmentally necessary, but rubs me the wrong way. That said, I'm positive that I'm much more off put by "magic numbers" than most people, so I'm willing to ignore that judgment if it feels fine to others.

  11. 100% inspired by Ben Nassau's exploration of Conspire in the WAC thread:

    Boiler Shift 2R
    Crew - As you cast this spell, you may tap two untapped creatures you control.
    ~ deals 3 damage to target creature or player. If ~ was crewed, it deals 5 damage to target creature or player instead.

    Sorta Airship 4
    Artifact Creature - Vessel
    Crew - When ~ attacks, you may tap two untapped creatures you control.
    If ~ is crewed, it gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

    I don't know if that actually works under the rules, with an ability word being referenced like that, but it allows you to make a Kicker with flavor that can also work for other triggers. You could make all noncreature Crew triggers on casting, and all creature Crew triggers on attacking.

    1. This is a nice way to branch conspire onto permanents, but I'm not sure if that's a goal we want to pursue. Conspiring once is cool, doing it every turn means that a bunch of your creatures become irrelevant. That said, it's certainly no more of an issue than the above version, so I'd be willing to try it out.