Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CCDD 090914—Concentration

Cool Card Design of the Day
9/9/2014 - Having to concentrate when you cast magic is a common trope. I explore that today in three variations.

Very simply, if your opponent can cast any instant while your spell is on the stack, it breaks your spell and you get nothing. I could have left out the doubling part and just made the effect bigger, but this makes it clear the keyword isn't all-downside; it spells out the risk and benefit.

Here, I make the risk a choice. You can choose to take the benefit by opening yourself up to disappointment. That reads better, because it is better. I'm thinking far too much better. You can mostly just concentrate when your opponent is tapped out. Sometimes you'll have to take the risk because you need the effect even though they're not tapped out, but I'm not convinced that's fun enough.

Lastly, this version is clearly all-downside and we put our trust in the player to see that the card is cheaper as a result. While this is less risky (because you can leave mana open in case), it's also my least favorite of these implementations. Reminds me of rhystic.


  1. The first time I read Simple Meditation, I thought it was zero cards or 3 (i.e, original and resolve it twice *more*). I really prefer the alternate template you mention, of stating the whole doubled effect upfront and countering if a spell is cast in response. In that case I don't think it should be keyworded, but I don't think it needs to be either. What kind of set has the instant/flash density to make concentrate appear in keyword-level numbers?

    My riff on concentrate is enchantments that 'break' whenever anyone casts another spell:

    Concentrate Shield W
    Creatures you control have indestructible.
    Whenever a player casts a spell, sacrifice ~ (and draw a card?).

    1. I'm thinking the average number of instants would work, but I could be way off. Leaning toward more should help.

      Fragile enchantments could be neat. Either needs to draw a card, return to hand, or be quite strong.

    2. Perhaps limit to spells of a specific card type? Sort of the opposite of the old Hidden Gibbons Enchantment cycle

      Scared Gibbons G
      When an opponent casts an instant spell, sacrifice CARDNAME

      Or even more specific
      Scared Owl U
      When a creature with flying enters the battlefield under an opponent's control, sacrifice CARDNAME

  2. On Twitter, @the_Flying_Sheep suggested "an all-upside version:
    Concentrate (if no spells are played in response to this spell, draw a card)."

    Whether we want to always grant the same reward—a free cantrip—or to vary it up from spell to spell, this is both simpler and more appealing. Rather than big spell v. no spell, we've got good spell v poor spell.

    Simple Meditation 3U
    Sorcery (unc)
    Draw two cards.
    Concentrate (If no spells were cast in response to this, draw a card.)

    Moment of Recuperation 2W
    Sorcery (cmn)
    Gain 3 life.
    Concentrate — If no spells were cast in response to this, gain 5 more life.

    Slow Feeding 1B
    Sorcery (cmn)
    ~ deals 1 damage to target c/p. Gain 1 life.
    Concentrate — If no spells were cast in response to this, instead ~ deals 3 damage and you gain 3 life.

  3. If you're going for top-down concentration, it's extremely common in games to have spells that take a long time to cast and can't be interrupted. Why not go for that?

    Ancestral Focus
    Concentrate - At the beginning of your next upkeep, if you haven't taken damage since casting CARDNAME, draw three cards.

    1. Or an enchantment version:

      Ancestral Concentration
      At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice ~ and draw three cards.
      When you're dealt damage, sacrifice ~.

    2. It's a bit strong, but I like where your heads are at.

  4. This mechanic is playing around in some interesting space, but I *really* dislike the gameplay incentives it's creating. It puts a premium not just on having instants, but on playing them in a draw-go style. And since the concentrate cards can be costed aggressively, it's rather likely that the other player will never have a chance to respond at all.

    Also, why not just print the card with a doubled effect and counter it if the opponent responds? I realize it's all-downside, but it feels more honest and straightforward.

    1. There are a few issues with the mechanic, but I think the deal-breaker is that it has no home. Concentrate is meaningless on spells that can be cast in the early game when your opponent can't reasonable respond to them. On other hand, if you're playing a lot for a spell, you don't want to risk failure, you want it do what you paid for, so it's unwelcome on late game spells. Is there a sweet spot in the middle game for concentrate? Maybe, but the gameplay's not so interesting that I'm particularly inclined to carve out that space.

      Sticking this one in the very-useful bin of experiments with negative results.

  5. I think this design is awesome for Legacy, but in Limited and even Standard most decks won't be able to interact, so I don't think it needs to be keyworded. This could be exciting:

    Shaky Counterspell U
    Counter target spell. If an opponent casts a spell in response, counter CARDNAME.