Thursday, June 19, 2014

CCDD 061914—Bound to…

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/19/2014 - This is likely a terrible idea. It's helpful to guess how useful an idea is early on, but never discard one until you've explored it; until you can explain why it's not worth pursuing, and are sure it doesn't lead to other, better ideas.

Bound to [thing] is a keyword that means you have to run at least as many copies of THING as CARDNAME. The idea is that we can make a card more powerful than normal by requiring you to run specific cards, particularly (but not necessarily) less powerful cards.

Nightsong Oracle is an efficient vampire that can potentially draw you a card every turn, but you've got to play Child of Night to use her. In Limited, you'll be happy to, but in Constructed not every black deck that would consider Oracle would consider Child.

This pairing is even more limiting than Marauding Maulhorn and Advocate of the Beast, a pairing that not all players appreciate. Oracle isn't jut worse when you don't have the card it names, it's literally unplayable. Since we know this won't appeal to those players, and expect it to appeal to fewer players, the only way it would be worth considering is if it appeals more to the audience it does keep. The upside is substantial, and the flavor is good, so if the audience for Maulhorn and Advocate is new players who appreciate a touch of deck-building direction and Vorthos, it may qualify. Not sure, but it's possible.

Bound should always reference common cards. The goal is not to stop players from playing them, but to make them consider cards they otherwise wouldn't. Adept Pike Novice could teach a new player who's never experienced the joy of swarming her opponent to death with 'bad' cheap creatures. It also gives experienced players a reason to keep an eye out for late Goblin Pikers they might otherwise ignore.

The worse the creature that CARDNAME is bound to, the stronger CARDNAME can be. That's not a choice we want to make every time, or even a majority of the time—I'm guessing—but there's a certain joy to realizing the value of cards we thought we understood has changed dramatically and capitalizing on that. As the poster boy for bad creatures, Squire has a number of [mostly ironic] fans and Bannered Knight can make playing them reasonable in the right deck, or at least justifiable.

Prey Upon
Given the random nature of Magic decks, it's entirely possible you could go three matches without seeing the card you included in order to run CARDNAME, but it's just as likely you'll see the prescribed card and not CARDNAME. That much variability makes it impossible for me to predict the true cost of Bound and so if I were to try it out, I'd want to test it on cards ranging from above-average to downright terrifying, and I'd want to test that range both with good commons and bad ones.

While bound should appeal to a subset of players, my instinct says that it won't appeal to enough players to justify making a keyword. Like Maulhorn and Advocate, this idea probably just wants to go one one card ever to make a single clever pair of cards.

Does this inspire any other ideas? Here's one:

Rivals [thing] (A deck can't have both CARDNAME and THING.)

That's significantly less restrictive and could be used to give a single archetype a choice between two powerful cards without letting it run both, theoretically adding variety to the Constructed metagame.


  1. I'm not sure how well players would feel about certain cards restricting their builds. Also, how would it handle something like Surgical extraction on its "bound to" card?

    Rivals did give me an idea.

    Fighting Mongoose 2G
    Creature - Mongoose
    Prevent all damage done to CARDNAME by creatures with Deathtouch.
    Rivals Snake: When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, it fights target snake.

    Maybe rivals should punish the creature type it rivals.

    Cobra King 3G
    First Strike, Deathtouch
    Rivals Mongoose (all mongooses get -2/-1)

    I could be over complicating the mechanic here. It very well could be a simple +1/+1 for each rivaled creature an opponent controls and still work.

    1. Surgical Extraction is OK since Bound To is just a constraint on deckbuilding.

      I do think there's good design space for Rivals, but it's more likely to be anti-opponent as you propose rather than anti-yourself like Jay's version.

    2. Fighting Mongoose is pretty sweet.

    3. Notably, your deck is the 60/75 card list you register and carry around in your deck box. Cards in still in your deck, even if they're in your hand, on the battlefield or in exile.

      The stack of cards you draw from is your library.

    4. Black could probably get a great Lobotomy card that searches out Bound dependencies and gets them too

  2. Problem: Both of these are really feel-bad downside mechanics. Yes, the card itself is great, but the mechanic not, and being 'forced' to add certain cards to your deck is not going to be a very fun feeling for players.

  3. If constraints on deckbuilding really are a legitimate design space, I think we're much more likely to see "Basic" (decks can include any number of copies) and "Singleton" (decks can include at most one copy) than something like Bound To.

  4. This reminds me of the deckbuilding keywords and restraints in the dead WoW TCG (reputation, talents, etc.). They were mostly hacks to conform to the MMORPG.

  5. I think there's an interesting idea, but I'm not quite sure where to go with it. To make it interesting, ideally it would be balanced so it's a good play in a deck which gets reasonable use out of the "bad" prerequisite card, but not otherwise.

    I'm leery of the restrictions on deckbuilding, because I think it will be a faff to enforce, both in competitions and in casual games, and too easy to forget. And this is mostly just me, but it feels like a bit of an inelegant hack to impose

    Another way to do it would be "all creatures you control called squire get +1/+1" or "when this ETB, search your library for a card called squire and put it OTB", so you can play it without, but it's only good with.

    The latter is closer to the original intent, in that you don't have to draw them together (which would be rare if you have one of each), just have them in the deck.

    FWIW, I don't like naming specific cards unless you have to because it takes away some choices. I think witch/cauldron/newt is interesting but only rarely. I wonder if there's a way of specifying cards other than by name. But if not, it's ok to specify specific cards sometimes.

  6. I do like mechanics that name specific other cards. And I love ways to encourage players to play with other specific *bad* cards. But I think this particular mechanic is likely a bad idea (as you said at the top of the post).

    It has enforcement issues in tournaments: if you've seen a Bound To card in your opponent's deck in game 1, you have to ask to see their entire deck (plus sideboard) /after game 3/ to confirm the legality of the card in their deck. It's like the end-of-game reveal-morphs clause, but a lot more fiddly to remember.

    I like the approach jmgariepy took with his Magic 20XX and Magic 20XD6 sets: they included copies of a very bad card (Mons's Goblin Raiders, Pearled Unicorn etc) in the token slot of each booster, and had lots of cards that let you fetch cards with one of those names from your sideboard. So you don't have to main-deck them, but if you pick some up in your draft or sealed pool, you can get card advantage from the other cards that reference them.

  7. I'd expect that people would hate these for the same reason that Nissa Revane is one of the least popular planeswalkers of all time. A couple of them (Nightsong Oracle, Adept Pike Novice) aren't even that good once you take away the Bound To requirement.

    Also, it would suck to open cards in your sealed pool that you were straight up disallowed to play.

  8. This would be havoc in limited.

    The idea of using deckbuilding restrictions as a resource for power level is quite interesting, but I think perhaps too fiddly and clunky (particularly in things like limited and constructed).

    What might be better is to have the extra powers switch on if you control the type of thing. That way you can still play it and deck building isn't a problem, but you won't get the value.

    But then, without the deckbuilding restriction, it loses any of its appeal.

    It's a conundrum.

    How about this? We have a sixth basic land, that is colorless. Barry's Land. We can call it "Cave" for now. With the exception of Domain, Barry's Land is worse than any other basic land.

    The "Bound" keyword works as a supertype with the reminder text "(For each bound card in your library, you must also have a Cave.)"

    Obviously, the word "Bound" would need to be changed to something more flavourful, but that might get most of the functionality out of the mechanic without making them unplayable in limited.

  9. Krenko's Warleader (R)
    Creature - Goblin Warrior
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may search your library for any number of cards named Goblin Piker, reveal them, and put them into your hand.
    1R: Goblin creatures you control get +1/+0 and gain first strike until end of turn.

  10. It's not the only important issue pointed out, but the deal-breaker for Bound are the tournament logistics.
    I'm liking the more upside bent several of you have suggested.

    I see three interesting branches from Havelock's trunk:

    Krenko's Pikemaster {1}{R}
    Creature - Goblin Warrior (unc)
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a card named Goblin Piker, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library.
    (What I love about this is that it's strictly better than Goblin Piker but ONLY if you have a Goblin Piker.)

    Krenko's Pikeseargent {1}{R}{R}
    Creature - Goblin Warrior (rare)
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may search your library for any number of cards named Goblin Piker, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Shuffle your library.
    Goblin creatures you control get +1/+1.

    Krenko's Siege Commander {3}{R}{R}
    Creature - Goblin Warrior (rare)
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may search your library for any number of cards named Goblin Piker and put them OTB. Shuffle your library.
    {1}{R}, Sacrifice a Goblin Piker: ~ deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

    From AlexC's idea to get cards from your sideboard:
    Krenko's Recruiter {2R}{R}
    Creature - Goblin Warrior (unc)
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may choose a card named Goblin Piker you own from outside the game and put it OTB.
    (Which is super fast to execute and doesn't bog down your deck. It basically requires we only choose weak cards to reference, but when they're free, who's to complain?)

    1. Although players will constantly shuffle Pikers into their decks, and unlike tokens, won't realize until they draw it next game. Dang.

    2. Oh, I really like Krenko's Siege Commander. That's pretty nifty.

      Of course, the thing with all of these cards is you'll have just as many games where you draw the bad binding target and don't draw the exciting bound card; and at that point you might find yourself getting somewhat frustrated with all these Goblin Pikers in your deck. (Mind you, new players would discover the value of having a 2/1 for 2, which isn't to be underestimated; but it'd make the Spikes pretty unhappy.)

    3. Clearly the solution is to build the set like M12, where Goblin Piker was not only playable but actually good.

    4. I personally loved that moment.

  11. It seems like tribal is the settled implementation of a lot of these ideas; structured enough for scenario-crunching, but free enough for actual choice.

    1. Yes, although the witch/newt/cauldron thing in M14 suggests that there's room for narrower implementations. Still, I don't believe that anything that says "play me alongside terrible cards!" is wise to print. Festering Newt is a lot better than Goblin Piker.

  12. Money Bomb
    CARDNAME deals 5 damage to target creature or player.
    Bound to Black Lotus