Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tesla: Put it to the Test

For those of you who might have missed it, throughout the last week we playtested a variety of mechanical elements exploring the theme of progress for Tesla. First of all I want to offer up a big thank you to everyone who participated in the playtesting or contributed designs for it. I compiled as many of those as I could and filled out the rest of the commons to play with. Things went really well and we learned a lot, as can you by reading through the playtesters’ observations.

So the question now is where to next? It’s a testament to the prowess of our designers here that every single mechanic we tried had some fun gameplay to it, but they can’t all stay. The key to this process is iterating to the best place we can be, and even if we had already found all the best possible mechanics, we simply have too many. To help break it down I’m listing some selling points and challenges for each of the mechanics we tried as well as one possible way to address an issue or two. So tell me: what should stay as is, what we should tweak, and what should go?


We’ve discussed Mecha at length, and every version has its own strengths and pitfalls, but there are some common themes. On the plus side, Mecha are awesome. Not just in the LEGO Movie sense either, they truly can inspire awe. While that emotional impact may not bear directly on gameplay, it’s not to be underestimated. After all, what more is a game than a means of giving someone an experience? What’s more, the gameplay has potential too. There seems to be a nice wide middle ground where they feel powerful but don’t completely take over the game.

Of course, it’s not all puppies and dandelions. Mecha come with a whole host of issues. From collation of not one, but two DFCs per pack to high comprehension complexity, they beg a lot of questions. Is a Mech summoning sick if one of its halves was? What happens when something combines while it has an aura on it, or is being targeted by a spell? On top of that the mechanic is inherently highly parasitic and might even cause frustration within its own biodome when players draw too many copies of the same half. The summoning sickness issue, at least, could be solved like this:

Progress 2.0

This mechanic truly plays out feeling like progress (especially when triggered by progressively larger spells). It builds up over time, makes you rethink how to sequence your plays, and just feels good. Sounds like everything I want in a mechanic.

But I’m not even sure we can print it. Are LSPs going to have the right intuitions about what constitutes a single mana spending event? If people think Firebreathing is going to work then there’s no way we can justify printing this. If we dodge that bullet, there are still other issues. This mechanic is really tough to develop because mana curves leave decks with so many lower costed cards. A 1/1 with Progress 2.0 is barely weaker than a 2/2, and a 1/2 is actually stronger! Balancing the low-powered cards would entail making them look completely unappealing, but perhaps there’s a happy middle ground to make strong-looking cards with greater starting power. We could keep activated abilities from causing further balance issues like this:


In our testing Dominance felt awesome when you achieved it, but didn’t generally decide the game right there. On top of that, it leaves lots of room for interaction and rewards players for things they want to do anyway, which is a recipe for appeal.

Of course, it does have the potential to snowball. While having the highest-powered creature doesn’t always mean you’re already winning, there’s certainly a positive correlation, but the bigger issue is when one player comes out of the gates strong and gets a crushing advantage from Dominance spells before their opponent can mount a defense. The only other apparent issue was confusion over what happens when there are no creatures on the board, which we can solve like so:


Overthrow played out a lot like Dominance: fun, interactive gameplay, potential to snowball, and danger of a crushing early game. It even offered a few more decision points to interest high-level players.

But in addition to Dominance’s troubles, Overthrow added one more. It doesn’t particularly feel like making progress most of the time. I think Jay Treat's right, Overthrow is better suited for another set. But I'm here to give everything a fair shake, so what can we do?

Well, while generally gameplay should speak for itself, other factors influence how we interpret it. Coherent enough flavor that matches up might just do the trick.


Bully lead to a lot of fresh combat evaluation without feeling overpowering. It did an excellent job of making creatures harder to block without removing interaction, it may be an even more fun mechanic than our old standby flying on 2 and 3 power creatures.

Of course, that was all within this nice biodome crafted to support it. Bully starts feeling a lot less interactive on creatures with higher power. Making Giant Growths into Angelic Blessings might not be the worst thing in the world, but Oakenforms are more problematic. Maybe we can get away without low rarity permanent power boosts in Tesla, but we have to consider casual play as well. That said, I don’t see much room to address these issues without losing what Bully has going for it; if you do, please share.


Transcend didn’t exactly get its day in the sun with this playtest. The cards didn’t offer enough reward to really entice testers into working towards transcendence, some of that was due to the cards themselves, but those were already pushing the boundary into uncommon, so there’s only so much more they could do.

A better route might be to make the mechanic more inherently impactful like Jay Treat suggested:


Like Dominance, Refine feels rewarding to achieve. Well, at least when we put it on the right sort of card: the Refine bonus should always feel significant. The mechanic offers a lot of interesting drafting and deckbuilding decisions to the player using it, and even some in-game interest on the topic of whether to wait for Refinement. Unfortunately, absent a card like Magitech Salvager, it’s not much in the way of player interaction.

There’s also the issue of decks becoming less diverse as players are encouraged to play the same casrds in every deck that wants a given Refine spell. We’ll come back to that in just  a moment.


Eureka! felt good when you got a free draw trigger, but as we learned with Miracles like Bonfire of the Damned, this space can cause a lot of problems when you have to worry about cheating on the tournament circuit. I might be willing to bite the bullet if the mechanic had enough going for it, but despite this playtest having at least 120% as many copies of the cards as the real set, the same name clause rarely came up. Where it did matter was making players hold off on casting these in the vain hope of getting the trigger if they drew their second copy.

All those critiques withstanding, the flavor really does come through. Perhaps there’s another way to capture it using what we learned from Refine:


Mine does a good job filling the Scry role for a smoothing mechanic. In the early game it can always guarantee a land and later on it helps you find what you need. It also enables graveyard synergies like Refine without as much feel-bad as conventional self-mill.

Of course, there is still some potential for bad experiences when an LSP hits two of their favorite cards and has to throw one in the bin. Perhaps more problematically, when you don’t need any more lands late in the game there’s still a 40% chance you’ll hit one right off the bat and see no spells. One option to abate that issue is not to make you keep the land:

Power Source

And finally we come to Power Source. The mechanic was hard to test in our Sealed decks because it demands one of two things to get going: a critical mass, which is hard to accomplish outside of draft, or individually impactful cards, which would normally be found at uncommon and rare. AlexC and Ben Nassau have put together some casual constructed decks, so hopefully we’ll get to see it in action soon.

That said, I do already have some suspicions about problems we’re likely to run across. Even one piece that impacts the board is going to cause enormous board complexity when everyone has to keep careful track of how many times it can be used on a given turn. Ideally we want to capture the idea of building your own machine without all of that. I suggest:

Now it’s time for your input. Which mechanics deserve more time and which should we let go? How can we improve the mechanics we keep? What excites you about the mechanics you favor? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited about where Tesla's headed.


  1. I'm all for continuing to try Combine until we're convinced we can't make it work.

    Iteration is definitely a better designed keyword than Progress.

    New wording for dominance is great. 'Any' needs to be 'every' or 'each' though. Could be shortened to "if you control a creature with power greater than each creature you don't [control]" but I don't know that's better.

    I'm still not convinced Overthrow is best used for Tesla, but I have to say that changing the name to Price of Progress has an impressive effect in making it fit.

    Bully is largely better than trample. Much of the time, both say "don't bother chump-blocking" but trample allows it, where bully doesn't. Bully also doesn't allow group-blocking, which makes it better than "can't be blocked by more than one" as well. None of that is to say we shouldn't use it, just to guide our evaluation of it.

    Servo Suit {2}
    Artifact-Equipment (cmn)
    Equipped creature gets +1/+1. If it's an artifact, it has vigilance.
    Equip {1}

    Refine could be Training, which I like better but suffers from a need-to-match that makes its worth in Sealed entirely up to your card pool. Innovate is interesting (though it's unfortunate that a fully-powered Bright Idea is still worse than Ponder/Preordain/etc).

    Mine probably just wants to be Mine 3 (Look at the top 3 cards of your library. Put one back on top and the rest in your graveyard.) Slightly less thematic, but simpler and more versatile.

    What does Power Source have over Cogs?

    I think each of these has potential in the right set. I will say that Overthrow, Bully and Dominance all feel like the belong in war- or arena-themed sets, places where battle isn't just a neccessary evil between factions, but something commonplace or celebrated. A steampunk world shouldn't be about brute force, but invention, exploration and general cleverness. That doesn't change that Magic is a battle game, and so we probably want one combat mechanic, but if there's any block that focuses less on that theater, I'd venture this is it.

    It's also worth looking at synergies and dependencies. Transcend doesn't work at all without colorless mana (from lands, artifacts and/or Boreal Druids) and plays nicely with power source. Mine is useful and thematic smoothing by itself, but really ramps up refine. Bully and overthrow work on their own, but bully makes overthrow better. Dominance works on its own and overlaps bully's condition, which is redundant but could really hammer a power-matters theme home, if we wanted it. Recent versions of combine work independantly, but could combo with power source, and older GY versions could also combo with mine. I'm personally most excited about mine and what that enables, but there are a ton of awesome combinations of these mechanics I'd be happy to explore.

    1. I like Training pretty well, though I am a little bit worried that the cost reduction will feel less impactful once you already had enough mana to cast the first copy. Might be mitigated in an environment with Eldrazi Spawn or Gold.

      Fixed value Mine is also a good call. I'm a bit put off by unrelated numbers popping up on the card, but ultimately gameplay has to win out.

      As for Power Source vs. Cogs, I imagine it was intended to create less board complexity because the triggering components stay the same, but I think both are going to be very tough to make work at common, hence Chain. I really want Cog to work, but between the board complexity (which is hopefully lower than I expected) and the need to mention CMC at common, I'm not optimistic about its chances. Of course, there's no particular reason it couldn't exist at uncommon and up with other cheap artifacts at common to support a draft deck.

    2. So:
      Mine (Look at the top three cards of your library. You may put one back on top, and the rest into your graveyard.)?

      We're already sort of mentioning CMC at common if we use iterate. We're just not putting it in text on the card.

      Also, is there a reason progress/iteration only keys off of power? We could have it go off power, toughness, greater than both, or greater than total power and toughness (ie, a 1/2 would need a spell that costs 4 or more.)

    3. Good point on Training. We'd need to have lots of cantrips / activated abilities to make that cost reduction relevant.

      I'm honestly not sure how chain is meant to work. I think if you read it literally it does nothing unless both artifacts have chain.

    4. I got too caught up trying to find more concise text. The basic idea is you attach it to another artifact and whenever that taps you get to use the one with Chain for free. This lets you build out a chain of them and get them all free after the first, but gets temporarily broken up by shatters and bounce.

      @Ben: combined P/T for Iterate is interesting. I don't like the Evolve version because it's fiddly, but unlike Evolve, isn't demanded thematically.

    5. A nice thing too about the combined P/T is that you trigger a 1/1 with something 3 or more, and then have to do a 2/2 with 5 or more. The cost increases by 2 each time naturally, which helps to balance it. It also makes it a less powerful mechanic which might be less fun, as it's hard to rattle off a bunch of 5 costing spells. It probably gets two or three counters a game in Limited. Not good enough? Still good? I don't know.

    6. Ich to combined p/t. Even simple arithmetic will slow the game down when you have to do it every round for potentially several creatures.

    7. If I I have Artifact A and link Artifact B to it, and Artifact C to that, should tapping A activate B and C? Does that mean I get ABBCCC every round?

    8. I agree that Overthrow, Bully and Dominance don't really feel like something in a Steampunk set. They would fit more in a Prison set, a Dino's Survival of the Fittest set, or a set about Dragon Warlords who are locked in a contest for power.

      I understand it's a result of an earlier vote, and I guess it could fit in a set about factory workers trying to overthrow the bourgeois factory owners. But I'm not sure how interested people would be in a set about this type of class struggle.

      Power Source could also be Cogs.

      Even if we go with Power Source, there should also Cog creatures that have the Power Source keyword. That would help make the Common Power Source cards always relevant without needing to give them powerful abilities that get out of hand.

      I'm not sure CMC has to be off limits for Commons. The concept is simple, but it seems more of a matter of coming up with more intuitive terminology. It reminds me of the word "absolute value" in Math - it's super simple but some kids might think "gee, that sounds complex" and their mind shuts off in an allergic reaction.

      We shouldn't assume that mentions of CMC would always be locked out of Common. I hope Magic in the future could just use a phrasing like "whenever you cast a spell that COSTS LESS than this card, ..." While that phrasing is new, cards can have reminder text like "For example, 1GG and 2U cost less than 4 or 3G," or "For example, 2U and 1RR cost the same AMOUNT."

      Magic would lose a lot of design resources by locking CMC comparisons out of Common, so it's a problem worth tackling.

    9. @Jay: Power Source at present lets you get ABBCCC. Chain just gives you ABC, but you only have to pay for A.

      @Chah: I like reading Cogs, but I'm not convinced they really solve the board complexity problem so much as move it elsewhere. As for creatures with the mechanic, there's not much space there as just pseudo-vigilance (in fact, it feels bad that additional untaps are worthless). We could give them activated abilities, but those eat up the limited resource we've been trying to mine for other commons.

      As for CMC, it's definitely worth tackling. I want "costs less" to work, but I imagine there would be difficulty convincing any rules manager. Either way, something unambiguous would be better so we could forgo reminder text. What about "fewer" gets a more numerical meaning, but there's no equivalent to replace "more."

    10. I did't mean having Cog creatures with no abilities, I meant that they could have abilities that aren't overpowered when activated multiple times, and they still would be relevant cards because they are creatures.

      What limited resources do they eat up?

    11. I think it's ok for the test Cogs to overlap with other cards in the test file, since it's just a test file.

    12. The flavor of Cog Gnomes is too good to pass up in a Steam Punk set. I feel it should be in the set in one way or another.

      One way to do it is to give each Cog a tap ability + "When this enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control."

      That should be completely doable. If that one way existed, there could be other ways as well.

    13. Fair point. What I meant is that we only have so many effects that can go on a repeatable activated ability of a common artifact. NWO more or less prohibits it from impacting the board (at least at instant speed), some abilities are cut off for feeling too colored, and even some of our normal options get to a problematic power level when repeatable.

      All I was really saying is each of those we stick on a creature cuts out the potential to put it on something like Razortip Whip an we probably only get 4-5 total. Luckily, Tesla's a standalone set so that won't pose problems for the rest of the block.

    14. AFAICT, they last used CMC on a common in Avacyn Restored, which isn't all that long ago. I would also offer up that using it on 15 commons eats exactly as many complexity points as using it on 1. In fact, it makes explaining it on a Tips & Tricks reasonable, and having players learn it a prerelease quite likely. Given that it's no banding or phasing, and how *every* set uses it above common, that kind of support is actually a good thing.

    15. Ohhh, when chain triggers and you "activate its ability without paying mana" you still have to tap it. That's what I was missing. That and I finally figured out that the "artifact with no subsequent links" is this artifact's preceding link. Definitely going to have to work on that wording. The multi-link restriction is unnecessary, since B and C can both be attached to A and you still get the same activations for the same cost.

    16. The issue wasn't that a card wouldn't trigger, but rather that you could end up with loops where cards further on in one chain were also in another chain that split off. That's not inherently problematic, but it's awfully hard to represent on the board if the chains are significantly different lengths and the linear chain is just easier to grokk. That said, I'm not sure there's any really concise way to word this.

    17. Hmm, I was thinking of some other iteration, this one still wouldn't cause loops. I'm not as convinced the text is worthwhile just to avoid branching.

  2. I believe the fear of putting pump spells at common for Bully could possibly be mitigated by some power reduction spells like Hydrosurge (but hopefully playable, maybe cantrips and such). This would lead to players putting a higher value on such cards and possibly steer limited towards preventative combat tricks (not sure if that's a good thing). Is bully really much more fear inducing than intimidate?

    I'm a big fan of Mine. If Eureka!/Innovate make it in, mine has some neat interactions with the mechanic. I'm also toying around with an idea as sort of a nod to LotR:

    Furious Balrog 5BR
    Creature - Demon
    Flying, Haste
    If you reveal CARDNAME from the top of your library, you may pay 5 life and sacrifice a creature to put CARDNAME onto the battlefield.
    "Too deep!? We haven't dug far enough!!" -Draumar, former lead excavator

    The numbers would definitely need tweaking.

    Mecha seems very parasitic, but I can't really think of a great way to help there. Maybe, to reduce the amount of flip cards required, Mecha could have the double sided card exile its counterpart to activate the transformation. If we wanted to reduce the parasitism even further, the counterpart could just be replaced with something broad like "Exile a red artifact to flip ~".

    1. The Hydrosurge approach to Bully is interesting and certainly worth a shot.

    2. Note that Hydrosurge works for Bully as well as against (though its better against), and that +N/+0 works for and against Bully too (but better for). That's probably a good thing?

  3. I think that the Eureka mechanic belongs on a cycle of rare cards, not at common. Besides, if the flavor is that you are having a Eureka moment, I would argue that is not a very common thing to have happen.

    1. I don't disagree. Unfortunately, that would make Eureka always-on in Limited and that's not very interesting. In fact, if we had to make a mechanic that's always-on in a format, I'd rather it be Constructed where the power level is higher anyhow.

    2. Eureka would be much cleaner (and I think better) if it cared about casting rather than the draw trigger:

      "If this is the first time you've cast a spell named CARDNAME this game, [effect]."

      Or even:

      "If this is the first spell with Eureka to be cast this game, [effect]."

    3. Those are both a lot better.

      Refine and Eureka are diametrically opposed in theme. Do we want both (to highlight that dichotomy), or do we want to send a single clear message?

    4. Most Magic sets have different factions, and you could have one industrial faction doing the Refining while another independent-mad-scientists faction has the one or two Eureka cycles.

    5. I like how "If this is the first time you've cast a spell named CARDNAME this game, [effect]." makes you play singleton-ish without requiring it.

    6. Random thought on the cast only version of Eureka. We could make it check your graveyard for a copy to alleviate corner case memory issues with Griptide + shuffling. It would stop us from making permanents, but let players feel clever if the set had something like Delve.

  4. Oh man. I love the splitting of cause and effect on the mechs.

    1. Yeah, major props to Nich Grayson for that one. It could cause a bit of templating trouble, but shouldn't be much of an issue compared with what Mechs already have to deal with. If we go that route I was thinking:

      Common: When this combines,
      Uncommon: Whenever this deals combat damage to a player
      Rare: Various unique triggers

    2. It is indeed awesome.
      I prefer "Whenever this creature attacks" to "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player". Having playtested with the former (but not the latter).

    3. It's an interesting point to debate. "Whenever this attacks" allows for more triggers because they can be combat relevant. Honestly that's probably enough to crown it victor. But the combat damage triggers are much more inherently interactive and much easier to balance against the transformation triggers since attack triggers are vastly more powerful.

    4. Ah, that's a good point: if all the triggers are hard-ish to achieve (combat damage) or oneoffs (when this transforms), then the payoffs can be better. If the trigger conditions are easier (when this attacks), then the payoffs maybe need to be worse.

  5. As I've said before with Mechs, I think all of them should transform with mana, rather than for free when they hit the field. So: "M, T: Transform, untap, etc." This allows us a knob to tweak in order to make sure they're balanced, as well as the fact that it takes care of the summoning sickness problem; in Limited, usually the only time you'll be able to transform them is when both pieces have been on the field. Not perfect, but better.
    Also again, I think the commons should only have "when this transforms" and higher rarities can have repeatable triggers.

    I like iteration, though again I didn't get the chance to play with progress.

    I really enjoy dominance, especially with the new wording, and think that it belongs in this set so far.

    I don't feel overthrow has a place here. I think dominance does its job better. Also, I would expect a mechanic named Price of Progress to be a downside in Tesla, considering everyone is itching to pursue progress.

    Though Bully felt powerful and fair in game, I'm still not sure if it will end up being developable. Of note, Wizards has printed just three creatures with that ability since Innistrad (the green vertical cycle in Avacyn Restored). I'm worried we'll run into problems.

    I prefer the version of Transcend that gives +1/+1 counters - with appropriate support of course (Boreal Druid!)

    Refine seems awesome and I have a test Constructed deck to try it out that I'm excited to play. That said, it does seem very difficult to interact with. If we're interested in pursuing it (rather than innovate which I also like) we could make the set more graveyard focused (which I'm all for thanks to mine being awesome) and put in main deckable graveyard hosers.

    I do not like Eureka! and don't believe it belongs in this set.

    Mine is awesome. I think with the tweak of "you may put one on top and the rest in the yard" it'll be fine. The top 3 cards version should work well though. I'm interested in exploring a graveyard based set. I suggested delve before, with the flavor of "everyone's looking for the next big thing". I think we can really run with that theme and make something awesome.

    Power source seems fine and I'm ready to test it. Cogs also seem neat, but I'd have to play with them.

    TL;DR: Hooray mana-activation mechs, dominance, new transcend, refine, mine, and the graveyard. Meh overthrow, bully, eureka.

    Sorry for the super long posts recently. Lots of excitement and thoughts for this project!

  6. I am excited to see the progress made, including the latest progress mechanic, and the mech trigger/effect split which seems to get more of a feel of "joining together two different parts". I mostly agree with everything you said about the mechanics in this post.

  7. Would Mine make the Landless Dredge deck totally unreasonable? It's at least worth thinking about, though I like it a lot as a smoothing mechanic otherwise.

    I like the new Progress / Iterate and Dominance templates a lot. Those two plus Combine would make a very good framework for a Voltron-oriented set, just as Heroic + Monstrosity + Bestow did for Theros. Then we would want a fourth, more spell-oriented mechanic, most likely some version of Refine or Eureka (which combined with Iterate could give us a cool CMC-matters subtheme).

    Bully, Transcend, Overthrow, and Power Source don't fit well with the theme of the set, in my opinion. I didn't have a chance to join the playtest, though, so I can't speak to their gameplay value.

    1. Mine might, but not in Standard, and with Dread Return banned, probably not in Modern either. Legacy's certainly a consideration, but the policy seems to be "print what's right for most players and ban to keep eternal formats healthy." Of course, if we end up with Jay's fixed number version it's a non-issue.

  8. I am pro-mecha, and I like transforming on attack. The half-and-half triggered abilities are brilliant! Well done Nich.

    Iteration is certainly better than Progress, but surely that card's name should be "Avante Guard"!

    One reason I'm in favor of Dominance is that it plays well with giant robots. If we're keeping mecha, that's a good reason to continue with Dominance. It should probably stay on one-time effects so that players can get rewarded for their big metal guy before being 2-for-1ed by Shatter.

    Overthrow, on the other hand, is anti-synergetic with combining creatures. It wants to live in a token-heavy set. Unless we want to go in that direction, it seems out of place.

    Bully's fine, but I don't really see why it belongs in Tesla.

    Jay's riff on Transcend is nice, but I think it should be a single +1/+1 counter, or perhaps a numerical parameter, not something that scales. Overall, I'm still leery of "colorless mana matters" because most players have only the vaguest idea of the difference between generic and colorless mana.

    Refine isn't that exciting to me. As you say, it's not very interactive.

    I agree with many others on Eureka: it's got some problems.

    I think Innovate wants to be a rare cycle, not a keyword.

    I'm really concerned that the "may" version of Mine is insufficiently clear to players; the fact that they can decline to put one on top, but then still bin the rest is nontrivial to infer from that text.

    Power Source and Chain seem really fiddly, and easy enough to break that we couldn't print anything fun on them. I don't think they have legs.

    Despite all my negative feedback, I am actually hugely excited by the progress Tesla is making. Thanks so much to all the playtesters and designers for making this wacky dream a reality!

    1. Why is one counter better for Transcend than one-per? With one, players want to run as few colorless sources as they can to turn these on, but with scaling, they want to play as many as they can afford. That has some risk of players color-screwing themselves, but it's also the best way to encourage mono-color play I've seen.

      Tesla doesn't need colorless-matters, and it's likely we want to pitch that entirely. That said, it does play really well with cogs and artifacts-matter, and if we wanted to a mono-color set, or wanted to explore the original mana-poor concept of Ekkremes, it wouldn't be a bad way to do it. I'm just not sure we want either of those.

  9. On Iterate:

    Evolve in RTR worked wonderfully because when you could play either a 2/1 Evolve and a 1/3 Evolve first and either would evolve when you play the other.

    Iterate doesn't have that quality. During the GDS2, Ethan Fleischer had a version of Evolve that only looked at power, and he was worried that Evolve was too inconsistent. The concern was that you get completely different results based on whether you drew cards in the right order or not.

    So that is something to watch out for.

    1. Certainly true. That said, at least in this playtest there was absolutely no problem triggering anything repeatedly if it started with less than 3 power. It does swing, but that swing seems to be from a few triggers to a whole bunch and rarely none. Normal snowball-y gameplay cautions apply.

    2. I see, I guess it's different when every card counts, not just creatures, and casting costs of 3+ is way more abundant than power of 3+ in a deck.

    3. Precisely. It's certainly hard to tell without playtesting, and I think this mechanic is especially deceptive. I nerfed the submitted Progress 2.0 cards severely and they were still significantly too strong.

  10. I'm not a fan of the current versions of Transcend.

    I feel that trying to create tension between "Should I play this as an artifact, which is more powerful? Or should I play around artifact hate cards?" is very forced, artificial and shallow gameplay. I may need to think about ways to describe what I mean more clearly on this.

    The one where you get +1/+1 counters based on colorless mana doesn't seem balanced to me. One player gets a City very early while the other doesn't draw one. Even if they are playing the same cards, the player who got the colorless source plays his cards one size bigger. The drafting portion might be fun but the game play sounds frustrating to me.

    1. What if Transcend said nothing about artifacts and just gave +1/+1 counters?

      I don't get the City scenario. All Magic is like that.

    2. Most of Magic (for example, most Commons) tries to avoid that kind of overwhelming advantage based on factors that you can't control.

      When you play a good Common (say, a 3-drop 3/3 guy), it's good for a while, but it's only about one good card that you have, not your whole army being better. The game then progresses to a later stage with bigger stuff hitting the board and it isn't as relevant. It could get removed, and while damage may have been dealt in that time, the other player could catch up in terms of board state. You also don't need a similarly powerful card to deal with that card. It could be traded for or dealt with with lesser pick-order cards like a 3-drop 3/1 or 1/4. These factors balance the game, not make it more random and one-sided.

      In contrast, you don't make a Common mana elf that says "T: Add 1 to your mana pool. Creatures cast with this mana enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter" You also don't make a slew of Commons that virtually turn a mana Elf into that Elf. Once a few creatures have been cast that way, you can't undo the board disadvantage with any one Common card, much less with a lesser card.

      Magic needs some random player-screwing like mana screw. But I think mana screw is doing a huge job already, and if anything, every set could use a little smoothing to dial back player-screwing rather than have more of it. Players have enough trouble trying to draw 8 or 9 lands for two colors consistently, and that's enough randomness. The game shouldn't be about which player drew one of his or her 3 Cities in the opening hand.

    3. As for the other Transcend, if it only gave +1/+1 counters. But it's better that it's about "which stats do I want (ability or size?)" rather than "which tag do I want (do I want this tagged as artifact or non-artifact?)." That doesn't seem to me to particularly fit the theme though. I think it's better if it's a DFC that can be cast from either side, like some have suggested.

    4. This now sounds reminiscent of Unleash, with the "ability to cast it either way" and the question "which do I want, size or ability (to block)?" So the Unleash model could be one option for optionally artifact-matters cards, if we wanted.

      But FWIW I think the version where any colourless mana spent means this is an artifact with an extra +1/+1 counter is fine.

    5. @Chah: Good point on the one-sidedness, however that scenario's only likely to come up if there are a lot of these at common. With one cycle we'd only be adding one at common for every second drafter, which isn't likely to lead to both players having a bunch of them and one colorless source completely defining the game. The earlier caveats I had about the counterless version still apply as well: this mechanic is better served on more late-game cards because it feels bad to play them unpowered.

    6. It's true that they would cause much less problems if they are for late-game cards, and if decks don't get a high concentration of them.

      I was assuming there were going to be enough that you could draft a deck out of it, otherwise it wouldn't make sense to put in enough colorless mana sources to support it.

      This keyword doesn't feel like Epic or Scry - it seems to be the kind of keyword where I ask, if it isn't going to be a draftable theme, what is it doing in the set in the first place?

    7. Yeah, you're likely right. In theory we could have some other artifact-centric deck that liked them without being reliant upon them, but more likely than not we would have to address this issue.

    8. I'm not married to any version of Transcend, or even to its inclusion in Tesla at all. I think Chah makes some really interesting points that the team will want to keep in mind, though I would want to test them rather than assume them true.

      The thing I'm skeptical about is one +1/+1 counter being better than multiple because it's the first counter that will happen most frequently and that will have the biggest impact on the game (raising a 2/2->3/3 is +50% but raising it again to 4/4 is only +33%).

      Putting transcend on expensive creatures at common and on cheap creatures only at rare makes a ton of sense.

  11. I'm convinced that any successful version of "Combine" will end up with one card becoming attached (generic word for Equipped, Enchanted, Fortified) to the other. Any mechanic where it the two cards actually become one permanent will require tremendous rules support.

    If we want to reduce the number of permanents involved, I'd suggest exiling one card with the other (like with the Imprint mechanic).

    1. Rules support can be implemented if necessary. DFCs needed a heck of a lot more. Planeswalkers, equipment, split cards, morph - all of them were flagship mechanics that have made the game better and needed a heck of a lot of rules support. (Note that I don't claim DFCs made the game better, but, well, they've already crossed that bridge.)

  12. I don't think Overthrow belongs in this set, unless Tesla is about Dominant bourgeois vs. uprising laborers. If that is the case, we might consider Sneak ("This can't be blocked by creatures with greater power") that someone suggested on this blog, in the place of Bully, to create the "Big guy vs small guys" world.

    If Dominance is going to be in the set, we don't want it to just be a win-more mechanic, so there needs to be a setup that makes sure that controlling the bigger creature does not equal being ahead. Sneak could be one of those things.

  13. Ugh - I had a long post about how Mecha needs some kind of limited tutoring, and I just realized Mine was that mechanic. Somehow I had thought it only fetched lands.
    Nice work.

  14. I'm curious as to how Power Source performed specifically.

    Power Source shouldn't require a critical mass of other Power Source cards - if a Life Gear just finds an artifact creature to attach to, it becomes a Sun Droplet.

    I think it would play better if:
    - There are artifact creatures with evasion, tap abilities, regeneration, etc.
    - The Power Source artifacts can be creatures themselves. They can take the slots of the activated ability creatures.
    - If it's too confusing, we don't have to allow daisy-chaining. The mechanic could just it hook up one artifact to one other artifact.
    - If it was too unreliable, Power Source can act more like Soul Bond, so that if the other artifact is destroyed, you can still power the artifact with a new artifact.

    I've been thinking that to feel like you've built a machine, the other Power Source cards could have abilities like "Deal 1 damage to target creature with flying" (combos with "Target creature gains flying until end of turn") or "Pay 3 life, T: Draw a card" (combos with Life Gear). Hopefully, they can form a web of synergies that combo in many ways, so that it doesn't feel like each card has a designated combo partner for it.

    I feel that the version that just reduces the cost doesn't feel as much like building your own machine.

    1. I didn't see a single Power Source card played (which was largely my fault for making them too weak). I like the Johnnier nature of the cards you're proposing, but it's a tall order to make a lot of those for common because each one should feel cohesive in its own right while still fulfilling all of our other requirements. If we've got designs I'm all ears.

    2. Finding synergies between the 'cogs' seems like a must-have. They don't all have to synergize, of course; we don't even need any of the commons to synergize, but as long as each 'cog' has a synergy with one other cog at some rarity (and a few have several), we make some really interesting decks possible.

      Ideally, we'd put the board-affecting 'cogs' at unc-rare, and the rest at common. Ex:
      cmn—Add {1} / Gain life / Mine? / Loot
      unc—Grant flying / Shoot fliers / +1+1 until EOT / Count creatures / Tap arty
      rare—Draw / +1+1 counters / Mine+Count type in gy / Make golems / Untap all other artys

    3. The suggested division of abilities by rarity makes a lot of sense here. Presumably some of those effects can charge you mana or life, in order to synergise with the commons more.
      I'd also suggest:
      common - Filter mana any colour, like Mana Cylix
      unc - Untap a creature
      unc/rare - Damage opponent / lifeloss

  15. I need to wrap up my comments:

    Dominance is special among these mechanics because it makes the rest of the set interesting, not just the cards with Dominance printed on it. The value of pump spells and shrink spells, blocking decisions, firebreathing, etc. are all affected by it. I don't know if it's a good mechanic or not, but it succeeds in affecting the whole set.

    My concern is that it doesn't particularly represent Steam-punk. Maybe it could work with the right flavor. If it were Sturmkraft, it would become "The Overlords of Sturmkraft" or "The Colossi of Sturmkraft" I guess...

    But I feel the Steam-punk element has to be represented by another mechanic though. Not just something that represents an abstract aspect like "Progress" or "Collapse" but a mechanic the represents the physical trappings of Steampunk. The only potential candidates here that actually directly represent Steampunk are Mecha and Power Source.

    Combining Mechas are awesome, and you can creatively mix and match triggers and effects, which feels like inventing your own machine. However, my concern is that Mecha cards only tangle with other Mecha cards, and don't interact with the rest of the set. Maybe that isn't that big of a problem if they don't take up a large portion of the set, which may be possible thanks to the scrying with Mine.

    I feel that Power Source hits the Steampunk nail right on the head. Unlike Mechas, it tangles with a wider portion of the set, not just cards of the same subset. I think it's worth searching for ways to make it less confusing, as well as finding the right effects for it. It would be fun to brainstorm a set of effects that form a wide network of combos with each other.

    I feel these are the three that need to be tested the most.

    Mine probably needs to be in the file too, even though we already know that some version of it will work, because Mine helps Power Source, and is also necessary for making the Mecha theme possible.

    1. I feel the other mechanics are likely to be additions to the set rather than a backbone that determines the set direction:

      For example, I'm not sure Iteration can carry a set by itself. But if Dominance is in the set, Iteration would be a nice way to enrich the mini-game of striving for Dominance. I don't think we need to test it at this point (unless someone proposes another version of Progress or Iteration.) If we decide to use Dominance, we can call back Iteration at any time.

      If Dominance is used, Overthrow can go in as a counter-strategy to Dominance. I think it's important to have a counter-strategy that doesn't care about size so that controlling the bigger creature is not synonymous with being in the winning position in this set. (If it is, Dominance would be too one-sided.)

      Bully also doesn't carry the set by itself, but can complement Dominance and play with the same support cards, such as Inner-Flame Acolyte.

      Refine introduces a new factor to build decks around, and I hope some form of it exists in the future, but I don't think it will feel like Steampunk, even if it represents progressively getting better at something in an abstract way.

    2. Thanks for all of the thoughts. I'm on board with most of this, but I'd like to see some more takes on Power Source/Chain/Cogs. If we can make it both understandable and creativity-spawning then I'm 100% on board, but right now our implementations are only one or the other.

  16. I don't *think* this will lead to anything immediately useable, but it seems like a crime not to explore the possibility of a single mechanic that replaces both cog and mecha.

    Veritech Mark III {3}
    Artifact-Mecha Equipment
    Equipped creature's base power and toughness are 3/3.
    Whenever a creature pilots CARDNAME, it gains flying until EOT.
    Equip {3}

    Pilot-for-Hire {1}{R}
    Creature—Mercenary Pilot
    Equip costs that target CARDNAME cost {R} more.
    {1}{R}: ~ pilots a Mecha attached to it.

    Glass Cannon {4}
    Artifact-Mecha Equipment
    Equipped creature's base power and toughness are 4/2.
    Whenever a creature pilots CARDNAME, it deals 1 damage to target c/p.
    Equip {2}

    Benalish Wingman {1}{W}
    Creature—Soldier Pilot
    Whenever ~ attacks, it pilots a Mecha attached to it.

    Maverick {1}{B}
    Creature—Rogue Pilot
    Whenever ~ becomes equipped by a Mecha, it pilots that Mecha TWICE.

    Ace Primate {1}{G}
    Creature—Ape Pilot
    As long as a Mecha is attached to ~, it gets +1/+1.

    1. Bah, that came out much more mecha and much less cog. Would be curious to see if others can mesh the two concepts.

    2. Bloody Gear 1
      Input Artifact (C)
      {1}, {T}: Gain 1 life. If you control a tapped Output you may untap and combine it and ~.


      Pay 1 life, T:...

      Smog Valve 2
      Output Artifact (C)
      {1}, {T}: ~ deals 1 damage to target player. If you control a tapped Input you may untap and combine it and ~.


      ...This card deals 3 damage to target player.

  17. Here's a cluster of comboing effects.

    Seismic Cog {2}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: ~ deals 1 damage to each creature without flying.

    Archer Cog {4}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: ~ fights target creature with flying.

    Wind Cog {3}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: Target creature gains or loses flying until end of turn.

    Power Cog {2}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: Target creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn. Activate this ability as a sorcery.
    (Cards like this would be good for Domination too.)

    Armor Cog {3}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: Target creature gets +0/+3 until end of turn. Activate this ability as a sorcery.

    Switcher Cog {4}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: Swap target creature's power and toughness until end of turn. Activate this ability as sorcery.

    Repair Cog {4}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: Regenerate target artifact.

    Syphon Cog {3}
    Artifact creature - Cog
    When ~ enters the battlefield, untap each Cog you control.
    T: The next time target artifact deals damage this turn, you gain that much life.

    The Cogs could have colored mana costs or activation costs.

    I want to attach an activation cost to the Cogs, but that would interfere with using their ability several times on the turn that you add a new Cog. Don't know what to do about that.

    1. Cogwork could also say, "Whenever an artifact enters the battlefield, untap this."

      So the Cogs could be a subspecies of Gnomes called Cogs.

      Repair Cog 4
      Artifact creature - Gnome
      Cogwork (Whenever an artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this.)
      T: Regenerate target artifact.

      Some non-creature artifacts could have Cogwork.

      Recycling Device {4}
      Cogwork (Whenever an artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this.)
      T: Discard a card, then draw a card.

    2. I like cogwork a lot more than the linear/parasitic version.
      Compared to the original cogs and power source cards, it's not as strong or thematic, but it's SO much simpler and almost as clever.

    3. Should probably be "another artifact."

    4. Clockwork Cog {5}
      Artifact creature - Gnome (R)
      ~ enters the battlefield with 4 +1/+1 counters on it.
      Whenever ~ attacks or blocks, remove a +1/+1 counter from it at end of combat.
      T: Put a +1/+1 counter on ~.
      Cogwork (Whenever an artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this.)

      Overclocking Tinkerer {3}
      Creature - Vedalken Artificer (U)
      Artifacts you control have Cogwork (Whenever an artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this. Instances of Cogwork are cumulative).

    5. Yes, "another artifact" sounds good.

    6. Medical Cog {2}
      Artifact (unc)
      Cogwork (Whenever another artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this.)
      {3}, {T}: Gain life equal to the number of artifacts you control.

      Mana Cog {3}
      Artifact (unc) (or maaaybe cmn for {4}?)
      Cogwork (Whenever another artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this.)
      {T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.

      Key Cog {2}
      Artifact (rare)
      Cogwork (Whenever another artifact enters the battlefield under your control, untap this.)
      {1}, {T}: Untap target artifact.

    7. Yeah, Mana Cog could totally be common. Ur-Golem's Eye didn't break anything. It's good with Pentavus, but, well, many things are.

      I like this direction a lot. Especially if there are a smattering of artifacts with flash or cards that make artifact tokens at instant speed. (Probably either as a oneoff or costing significant resources, because otherwise it's a bit too easy an infinite combo with Mana Cog or similar.)

    8. Haha. Just realized this version of Cogs *loves* Transcend.