Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tesla: the Apple doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

Let's talk artifact mechanics for Tesla. Our mainstays have been Cogs and Mechs, and one or both of those may suffice, but surely there's more space to explore before we settle on anything.

We've looked at a few different versions of the Cog mechanic. The core idea is to let players build their own Rube Goldberg Machines out of assorted artifacts. Most of our implementations have had too much board complexity for common, but one was quite simple.

This implementation addressed our concerns admirably, but there's some question as to whether it's really going to make for fun and exciting games. Then a few weeks back when we were riffing off our mechanical base, Zachariah Howell proposed mixing up the triggers with +2/+2 until end of turn for creatures.

There's nothing wrong with Artifactfall, in fact, I'd bet good money that we'll see it printed in real Magic some day.

But it doesn't belong in Tesla.

We've done "artifacts matter," thrice, in fact. There's certainly untapped design space here, but we've got even more waiting in the wings. Yes, Tesla has artifacts. Tesla probably wants mechanics that benefit you for playing artifacts. But Tesla is neither Mirrodin nor Esper, and in order to give the set its own identity our artifacts need to ask you a different question besides "how many do you have?"

So this week I have a challenge for you. Do for Metalcraft what Retrace did for Threshold. Design a mechanic (keyworded or otherwise) which interacts with artifacts in a different manner from just counting up the ones on the board. We saw a couple of options that fit the bill last week, but I'm excited to see what else we can do.


  1. So, I guess we should try to come up with something like Heroic, which plays nicely with Enchantments (namely Auras) without necessarily mentioning Enchantments.

    1. That would be awesome, though I don't think mentioning them is so much an issue as creating deckbuilding incentives that are too similar to everything we've seen before.

  2. Hmm. Maybe green can love artifacts if it focuses on the colourless nature of them:

    Ancient Ruin-Stirrer
    Creature - Elf Scout, 2G, common, 2/2
    When ~ ETBs, look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal a colourless card from among them and put it into your hand. Then put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order. (Cards with no coloured mana in their mana costs are colorless. Lands are also colourless.)

    Ruin Delver
    Creature - Elf Scout, 1G, uncommon, 2/1
    Whenever ~ attacks, you may return a colourless card from your graveyard to your hand.

    Probably doesn't really make sense to do this when we could just say "artifact or land" unless there'll be morphs or Eldrazi in the same Standard. I guess if the set has some themes about land then that could help to some extent.

    FWIW I do think "cogwork" (artifactfall-untap) would be fun and play nicely when slathered around a good helping of tap-effect common and uncommon artifacts.

    1. On the off-chance anyone missed the reference Alex is making: Ancient Stirrings

    2. If we end up with Mecha vs. Eldrazi or something, this direction would be good glue to hold it all together.

  3. In the Furnace {R}
    Scrap -- As an additional cost to cast ~, you may sacrifice an artifact.
    In the furnace deals 2 damage to target creature or player. If you sacrificed an artifact to cast ~, it deals 4 damage to that creature or player instead.

    Weapon Improviser {3}{g}
    Creature -- Human Fighter
    Scrap -- When ~ ETBs, you may sacrifice an artifact. If you do, put two +1/+1 counters on it.

    1. Players don't love throwing things away, but this sure does combo with Feed the Machine.

    2. I'm assuming Magnetic mine and Mycosynth Well-Spring type of cards would be well represented.

    3. ETA: plus I'm assuming Scrap cards would be on curve or very close without the scrap. These two are Galvanic Blast and Festerhide Boar, both of which were considered excellent in their respective formats.

    4. I've played with this kind of mechanic in an artifact set - my steampunk artifact set Clockwork Wings has a cycle which I never got around to naming, so they've still got the playtest names Blue Trick, Green Trick etc. They play well, and especially with artifacts that like to hit the graveyard.

    5. I have absolutely no doubts that they play well, but unless they A. bring the whole set together or B. have unparalleled gameplay quality, it doesn't seem worthwhile to draw focus to a mechanic that is going to look bad to players. It'll quash excitement for the set and players won't want to play with the cards. More players would play Hill Giant as is than if it had "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may sacrifice ~." Even though the second version is strictly better.

  4. Edison's Assistant {1}{U}
    Creature—Human Artificer (cmn)
    Prominence — As long as you control the most expensive artifact, pay {1} less to cast artifact spells.

    Steam Tunnel Sneak {3}{B}
    Creature—Rat Rogue (cmn)
    Prominence — As long as you control the most expensive artifact, ~ has intimidate.

    Simple Experiment {1}{U}
    Sorcery (cmn)
    Draw two cards, then discard a card.
    Prominence — If you control the most expensive artifact, draw two cards instead.

    Lab Accident {2}{B}
    Instant (cmn)
    Target creature gets -3/-3 until EOT.
    Prominence — If you control the most expensive artifact, draw a card.

  5. Maybe I'm focusing too hard on Rube Goldberg with this one...

    Spark Shooter 2
    Artifact - Cog

    2: Attach ~ to target artifact you control.
    2, Tap: ~ deals 1 damage to target creature.

    Ramping Engine 4

    Tap: At 1 colorless mana to your manapool.

    2: Run (Activate all activated abilities of ~ and all artifacts attached to ~ without paying their activation costs. Tap each artifact activated this way.)

    I guess this is kind of like bestow/equipment for artifacts. I was tempted to have the cogs only attach to engines, but that seems like wasted space. I'm trying to find a way to word Run to say that each artifact activated becomes tapped. You can still activate each artifact attached individually, but why would you pay for each activation if you could just as easily pay a flat rate for all activations?

    I want to leave Run's cost open for design purposes such as having a creature trigger it when attacking. Also, I'm not a numbers guy, so please tweak as you see fit.

    I'm also pondering the results of putting Run on a cog and attaching it to an artifact with Run...

    1. This is pretty close to one Cog version I was messing around with. It may be enough fun to fall back to if it comes to that, but I've become convinced that we can make playing with Cogs feel more creative than just activating them all for less mana.

  6. Feed the Machine also cares about artifacts without caring what's on the board.

    Probably not worth the added text, but it could be twice as usable if we allow you to sacrifice artifacts you control, and/or discard artifacts cards from hand, in addition to exiling artifacts in your graveyard.

  7. I'm not clear why artifactfall (which would clearly be called invention or innovation) doesn't belong in Tesla.

    I'm also not sure how it inspired this challenge, since it doesn't count how many artifacts you have on the board. Granted, it's better when you play more artifacts, but unless we want to do artifact-loner (and I hope we don't), every mechanic that cares about artifacts will want you to run more artifacts in your deck, if only to increase the likelihood of finding one to care about.

    1. Metalcraft, affinity, and most of the Esper artifacts-matter cards encourage you to dump a bunch of artifacts onto the battlefield early on. Artifactfall doesn't encourage you to do this, at least not right away, so I suppose I agree with you there. On the other hand, I'd like to hold out for something a little more thematic and innovative. What about:

      Invent-- When you cast CARDNAME, if it's the first spell named CARDNAME you've cast this game, EFFECT.

      It isn't artifact-specific in any way, but it's natural to put on artifacts because of the flavor, and because most decks could easily run 1-2 of any given artifact if they want its invent effect. Or you could make it more directly landfall-y:

      Invent-- Whenever you cast an artifact spell, if you don't control any artifacts with that name, EFFECT.

    2. My issue was that all of the artifact-centric major set mechanics we've seen in Magic push you in the same direction: jam as many artifacts as possible into your deck. Chah's example of Heroic is a good one: it encourages auras, but doesn't just say "put as many auras as possible into your deck."

      Maybe wanting to hold them until you have cards on board to trigger is enough of a different experience, but I'm not entirely convinced.

    3. Metalcraft on non-artifact spells doesn't necessarily have that effect. Carapace Forger and Galvanic Blast seem pretty close to the Heroic model.

    4. The tension on heroic is that you need heroic creatures to put your auras on. The tension with metalcraft is that you need things with metalcraft to make your artifacts matter. Granted, metalcraft came on artifacts too, but it was a step in the right direction from affinity.

    5. Note that bestow was a beautiful solution to the tension here. My red-white Heroic deck loves Hopeful Eidolon and Mogis's Warhound because if I've drawn other (Heroic) creatures (especially 1- and 2-drops) then they're solid Auras, and if I've got an Aura-heavy draw then they can wear the Auras just fine as creatures in their own right.

      Erm, that's mainly just enthusing about bestow, but it also suggests that if we'd adding a tension between "cards that like X" and "cards that are X" then it's worth seeing if there's any way to make a few that can be whichever you need at the time you draw it.

    6. Like artifacts with metalcraft.

    7. Point taken. Perhaps that wasn't as good an example as I thought, but I think the point still stands.

      Look at Retrace as opposed to Flashback. Clearly both benefit from self-mill, etc. But whereas Flashback just keeps getting better as you do the same thing, getting more Retrace spells in the bin has quickly diminishing returns as you run out of lands in hand and decks built around the mechanic need to focus on getting lands as much as self-mill.

  8. Crashblast Mechhead 1R
    Creature - Goblin Techra Warrior
    3R: Imbue (Attach a non-creature artifact you control to this creature. That artifact loses all abilities as long as it is imbued. Imbue only as a sorcery.)
    CARDNAME gets +X/+0, where X is the combined converted mana cost of artifacts it is imbued with.

    My first instinct was to play around with sacrificing artifacts. A HUGE number of my favorite cards say "sacrifice" somewhere and I remember how much the game opened up to me the moment I realized how much utility even moderate sacrifice abilities give to you. However, everything I did ended up feeling like a single card, and not a mechanic. It's just hard to imagine a block with eight different Bloodthrone Vampires at common.

    Imbue tries to solve that problem by completely reversing it. Instead of sacrificing cards, you can imbue them, which lets you get them back later when your imbue-creature dies.

    Maester of Armors 3W
    Creature - Human Techra Cleric
    WW: Imbue (Attach a non-creature artifact you control to this creature. That artifact loses all abilities as long as it is imbued. Imbue only as a sorcery.)
    CARDNAME has protection from each color of artifacts it is imbued with.

    Techra is just a cute little flavor push. I'm currently imagining Imbue as an ability that only some Teslans can do, perhaps because they have had some degree of cybernetic enhancement. It makes the typelines super long though...

    Gathra Pickpocket 2U
    Creature - Salamander Rogue Techra
    2U: Imbue (Attach a non-creature artifact you control to this creature. That artifact loses all abilities as long as it is imbued. Imbue only as a sorcery.)
    Whenever CARDNAME attacks, draw a card for each artifact it is imbued with.

    Perhaps to assist with the mechanic, and to keep it from feeling dark, we could include a blink-effect at common in white and some beneficial self-bounce in blue. Maybe move away from Arrest effects (pacifism could be fine since Imbue does not always have to effect combat).

    Energy Centrifuge 1W
    Exile target creature, then return it to the battlefield under its owner's control at the beginning of the next end step. Then, if that creature was imbued, you may imbue it without pay its imbue cost.

    1. Imbue still may turn players away who want to use their cards for what they say, but it's enough nicer than sacrificing that I'd definitely like to try it out. The biggest issue I see is that it's going to cause board complexity at common unless we do one-shot effects, and those just feel strange to me. How do others feel about:

      Chachki Collector 1W
      Creature - Human Artificer (C)
      Whenever ~ attacks, Imbue. (You may attach a non-creature artifact you control to this creature. That artifact loses all abilities as long as it is imbued. Imbue only as a sorcery.)
      Whenever CARDNAME becomes imbued by an artifact, you gain 2 life.

    2. I see no reason why it can't be a mixture of the two. Some cards could do something when their imbued and some can do things for as long as they are imbued. Commons could have a tendency to have one shot effects, with one or two exceptions that are streamlined, and higher rarities could play with the effects a bit more.

    3. No cards can do anything when their imbued because they lose all abilities.

      Maybe we just want one card, or a vertical cycle.

      Whenever ~ attacks, exile an artifact you control until EOT. ~ gets +X/+0 until EOT, where X is that card's price.

    4. Right, so the imbue abilities would be written on the creatures and triggered when they are imbued with an artifact power source or active for as long as they are imbued.

      I thought that was already clear, so I guess the wording is too ambiguous?

  9. Just gonna throw out some ideas. Feedback always appreciated.

    Gatherer of Trinkets 5
    Artifact Creature - Construct (C)
    Collector (This creature gets +1/+1 for each noncreature artifact you control.)

    Giver of Souls 6
    Artifact Creature - Construct (U)
    T: Awaken target noncreature artifact. (Until end of turn, it becomes a creature with base power and toughness each equal to its converted mana cost.)

    Mecha-friendly Giant 3R
    Creature - Giant Artificer (C)
    Empowered--Whenever you activate an ability of a noncreature artifact, put a +1/+1 counter on Mecha-friendly Giant.

    Happy Tinkerer 1W
    Creature - Human Artificer (C)
    Empowered--Whenever you activate an ability of a noncreature artifact, you gain 3 life.

    Collective Think Tank 3UU
    Creature - Human Artificer (U)
    Affinity for Artificers (reminder text)

    The mana costs, creature types, and p/t are all arbitrary. I'm going for the rules text here. I just really like the phrase noncreature artifact and also Artificer-tribal.

    1. Empowered is very promising, though possibly broken with equip 0. Riffing:

      Happier Tinkerer
      Creature- Human Artificer (C)
      Empowered-- Whenever you pay {T} on an artifact, you gain 2 life. (You pay {T} whenever you activate an ability with {T} in its cost.)

    2. Awaken is cool, but probably not going to work at common. I agree with Ipaulsen that Empowered seems most likely to yield something awesome. I wonder if it couldn't just be "whenever an artifact you control becomes tapped" to work with artifact creature too?

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  11. Surprised that nobody has considered artifacts in players' hands yet. A couple of random ideas in that direction:

    Bells and Whistles {3}
    Artifact (Uncommon)
    T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
    Glue {1} ({1}: Exile this card from your hand until target artifact leaves the battlefield. That artifact gains this card's abilities. Glue only as a sorcery.)

    Come to think of it, that could also be a good way to do Mecha. And you don't have to worry about the usual characteristic-defining awkwardness! Here's another idea:

    Milling Machine 4
    Artifact (Uncommon)
    T: Target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
    Blueprint-- 2, Reveal CARDNAME from your hand: Target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. Activate this ability only once.

    Forecast meets monstrosity, with better flavor than either.

    1. On Glue: exiling seems like a good way to avoid many of the combined card confusion, but we'd need to find a setup that is more likely to create cool combinations so that it's not just a power-level balancing feature for cheap casting (because it eats up too much complexity to be worthwhile for such basic functionality).

      On Blueprint: This sort of thing has been discussed quite a bit. It can cause a bit of weirdness with Brainstorms, random discard, and the like, but is likely printable. That said, aside from the brilliantly named mechanic I don't see a particular reason to tie it to artifacts.

  12. The problem is that unlike Heroic and Auras, Artifacts have no real mechanical identity. They're all just things that do things, share a subtype and although a lot of them tap, it's not a requirement by any means.

    Since a lot of them tap for effects, I'd maybe look into some generic variant of a tapping or untapping mechanic that doesn't specifically mention artifacts maybe.

    Sparkwield Pyromancer 2R
    Creature - Human Shaman (C)
    Whenever a nonland permanent you control becomes tapped, you may pay R. If you do, Sparkwield Pyromancer deals 1 damage to target player.

    Clunky, but something like this might work. Or perhaps "artifact-bond"?

    Techomancer 2U
    Creature - Human Wizard (C)
    Artifactbond (You may pair this creature with another unpaired artifact when either enters the battlefield. They remain paired for as long as you control both of them.)
    Whenever an artifact paired with Techomancer becomes tapped, target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

    1. I like the space you're working with, and we could certainly try out one of our previous versions of Cog limited to sorcery speed and creatures.

      Gap-Filler {4}
      Artifact Creature-Construct (C)
      Cog (Whenever ~ becomes tapped, you may untap another target artifact you control.)

      Springboard {2}
      Artifact (C)
      Cog (Whenever ~ becomes tapped, you may untap another target artifact you control.)
      {T}: Target creature gains flying until end of turn. Activate only any time you could cast a Sorcery.

  13. Meddle C (C, exile this card from your graveyard: untap target artifact.)

    1. In theory I like this, but in practice it's going to cause enormous board complexity. I have to track what's in my opponent's graveyard, what mana they have available, and what tapped artifacts they have.

    2. Then make it sorcery speed, duh. Or make it a cost from hand. It's not like there's a lack of knobs to fiddle with.

  14. GirdPlug: "When this artifact enters the battlefield, if you control both this creature and another artifact, you may plug this artifact with it for as long as all plugged artifacts remain artifacts, on the battlefield and under your control" and "Whenever another artifact enters the battlefield under your control, if you control both that artifact and this one, you may plug that artifact with this artifact for as long all plugged artifacts remain artifacts, on the battlefield and under your control."

    So you would have plugged artifacts, and unplugged.
    If any of the plugged artifacts gets unplugged, all get unplugged. When you play a new artifact you can plug it with all the artifacts remaining that have gridplug.

    Artifacts that have gridplug should give static bonuses to the other artifacts that are plugged in.

    Artifacts without it could be normal artifacts, or could get boosted when plugged, or get less efficient while unplugged.

    Aether Battery
    All plugged in artifacts creatures you control have: {3}{t}: untap this artifact.

    Powerless Fight Drone {2}
    Artifact Creature -Drone
    As long as Cardname is unplugged it has -3/0

    Hoverdrone {3}
    Artifact Creature -Drone
    As long as Cardname is plugged in it has flying

    1. Even assuming that you go the Soulbond templating route, this seems like way too much text for common.

    2. Agreed. The general idea seems like fun, so if we can find a simpler way to execute it, I'm all ears.

    3. We could do it with charge counters, I guess and moving them around?

      Charged X

      This permanent comes into play with X charge counters. Whenever this permanent gets tapped, remove a charge counter from it. If it has no charge counters, it is uncharged.

      Then you have artifacts that drain your other artifacts for charges when they die, artifacts that generate charges, uncharged artifacts that turn on and off, artifacts that give bonuses on charged artifacts you control, spells that interact with them, etc.

      Charge counters already exist so it is not "that" parasitic, but it is quite parasitic, as far as mechanics go.

  15. Cobble (You may cast an artifact you own from outside the game. It gains haste. Sacrifice it at EOT.)

    Now we're telling people to draft artifacts, but not put them into their main deck.

    1. If we're okay with lots of wishes, I like this. Whether or not that's the case is open for discussion. They have a lot of utility for allowing search type effects without the loading screen of shuffling, and would be especially useful for Rampant Growths and Evolving Wilds. That said, other implementations do act like tutors, and those sap variance really quickly. Other concerns are complexity at common and potential confusion/feelings of unfairness surrounding the collection/sideboard distinction.

      At present I'm not convinced, but the benefits are clear, so I'd like to be.

  16. Hi! I'm new here so I don't know if this thread is already finished up, but here's a mechanic to toss in for consideration:

    Tinker (You may discard a card. If you do, search your library for an artifact card with converted mana cost equal to the discarded card, reveal it and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.)