Thursday, October 23, 2014

CCDD 102314—Dragonslayer

Cool Card Design of the Day
10/23/2014 - We've hit this trope so many times, but I found a new solution last night.


  1. Pitch: this, potentially as a legendary/mythic; fights every time a creature damages you alone, or any creature with power 4/greater. Tilting at windmills til the cows come home.

    I like that this sometimes loses.

  2. This ability feels very limp. If your opponent is actually hitting you with a dragon, your hero gives you a sliver of a chance to kill the dragon. Probably you'll reveal a land, and your knight will just die.

    Perhaps :

    Whenever a dragon creature deals damage to you, put that many +1/+1 counters on ~.

    T: ~ fights target dragon.

    1. It's entirely intentional that this loses fights against dragons.
      1—It's already a very fine card as 2/3 uncommon for 2. (And beats most other WW knights.)
      2—Not knowing whether this two-mana uncommon will completely negate your opponent's best creature is a huge moment of suspense. Both players can see it coming, but neither knows what will happen.
      3—You can fix the results.
      4—Thematically, your story SUCKS if the hero _knows_ she's going to defeat the dragon. You're only a hero because you risk your life at the chance, you'll kill the monster, particularly when that chance is small.

    2. I understand the story yours tells, and I think it does well at that, but I think the game play of it is poor because you have this super texty ability that, even in the narrow games where you come up against a dragon, you should almost never use it.

      Yes, it is fine as an Armored Warhorse, but it has a bunch of text that I probably shouldn't use.

  3. I don't think the dragonslayer trope works as a creature card.

    The trope is usually a variation of the David vs. Goliath story, but that's not how creature combat works in Magic. The big creature always wins. So why can't the dragonslayer be a small creature who becomes big later, something akin to Dawnglare Invoker? Because the hero emerges to face the challenge of the dragon. If the dragonslayer shows up on turn 2, long before the dragon ever shows up to start slaying peasants, that's somewhat like putting the cart before the horse.

    There are a number of ways you could attempt to resolve this conflict, for example:

    Dragonslayer's Sword (rare)
    Artifact - Equipment
    Equipped creature gets +5/+5 and is a Knight in addition to its other types.
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if an opponent controls a Dragon creature, you may attach this equipment to target creature you control. If you do, it fights target Dragon.
    Equip 4

    1. I really like that this gets fight out of white. I don't think this needs to be dragon specific.

    2. I'm not convinced the game should have efficient answers that specifically target big splashy bombs at all. But this trope keeps on coming up, so clearly there's something that resonates with people about it.

    3. Dragonbane Guardian 1WW
      Creature - Human Knight (R)
      First strike, vigilance
      You have protection from Dragons.

    4. You make good points, Evan, and I like the idea behind your design.

    5. Aura, your Guardian reads well, but will lead to a stalemate in practice: Neither your knight nor their dragon ever attacking, both gumming up the combat step instead.

  4. What about:

    Dragonslayer Knight GW
    Creature - Human Archer Knight
    Reach, First Strike
    At long as CARDNAME is blocking a dragon, it has deathtouch.

    kills dragins in combat and has a "favored enemy" vibe.

    1. It would be weird for a white knight to have reach without also being green, and completely unreasonable for it have deathtouch without being green or black, so the green is necessary.

      Since dragons are red's iconic creature, it would be ideal for their two-color bane to be white-blue. Blue could make the knight fly (as could white), solving that problem, but neither of those offer deathtouch.

      Also, archer-knight feels wrong to me.

      This isn't bad, but I think you can do better.

    2. Also, it causes the same stalemate as Aura's Dragonbane Guardian.

    3. Hmmm... So I've been thinking about this, and what I wanted to know is what is the true narrative behind this trope. Basically what I think we are trying to capture is the story of a knight who goes off to slay some monster that is plaguing a town. now in most stories, that monster is a dragon, but that does not always have to be the case. What if we did something like:

      Knight of Redemption WW
      Creature - Human Knight
      First Strike Vigilance
      You may play CARDNAME without paying its casting cost if you were attacked by a creature with 4 or more power since your last turn.

      This design instead plays up the idea of a knight inspired to protect the town after it is attacked. Whether or not the knight succeeds, is a story that can be left to the gameplay.

      Perhaps in one game your opponent hits you with a 5/5 dragon so you drop this knight and enchant it with Angelic Destiny, eventually defeating the dragon in combat. that tells a cool story. The next game you could get hit by an 8/8 kraken, drop the knight for free, only to use it as a chump blocker to save your own skin, forming a different narrative. The beginning of the story is always the same "We were attacked by a monster and I shall go out and fight it" but the ending is a result of the gameplay itself.

      What do you guys think?

    4. Make it "if you lost 4 or more life" instead and I'm a big fan.


      The Knight You Need WW
      Creature - Bat Knight (rare)
      First Strike
      CARDNAME ETB with a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the largest amount of damage a single source dealt to you since your last turn.

      …Which is far less elegant, and the story's not as good, but I think the card is still compelling.

  5. (Strictly vorthos review)
    I like this idea as it tells a different story depending on what you reveal. Seems the idea is you (the authority) have hired said Dragon Slayer to protect your village when the beasty comes a knocking. Said dragon attacks. Time for Slayer to prove his/her worth. Will fate allow this Slayer to become a hero and best a creature much greater? Or will this self proclaimed Dragon Slayer prove that confidence burns just as quickly as wood? The tension this ability creates really captures the feel of Human vs Dragon.

    1. Nice!

      Makes me want to replace the +X/+X until EOT with X +1/+1 counters. That really makes the risk worthwhile!

  6. Based on Evan's comments—and I can't believe how simple this solution is:

    Dragonbane Knight {W}{W}
    Creature-Knight (unc)
    First strike
    When CARDNAME ETB, destroy target dragon that dealt damage to you since your last turn.

    Making it less specific:

    Champion of Vengeance {3}{W}{W}
    Creature-Knight (unc)
    When CARDNAME ETB, destroy target creature that dealt damage to you since your last turn.

    Simplifying it further, and taking my own advice:

    Dragonkiller {U}{W}{W}
    Creature-Knight (rare)
    Flash, vigilance
    When CARDNAME ETB, destroy target dragon attacking you.

    1. I'd prefer if the last one still let you get hit. In these stories the knight doesn't stonewall the dragon, just kills it after it's already been on a killing spree. Taking a note from Reciprocate:

      Terror's Bane {3}{W}
      Creature - Human Knight (U)
      When ~ enters the battlefield, destroy target creature that dealt damage to you this turn.

      Flash is mainly in blue and green, but MaRo has noted that any color can have access to it if the effect needs it. I could see opting for Champion of Vengeance instead, but I could see it getting difficult to track in multiplayer or even in 1-on-1 if you play it postcombat.

    2. I always hate the kind of card that makes me wonder if I should play it or not. You keep holding your Slayer of the Wicked and not seeing any targets turn after turn and so finally you just decide to play it, and then your opponent slams an Olivia Voldaren. This is one of the worst feelings in Magic, and I don't think the gameplay justifies the feel bad.

    3. I love Slayer of the Wicked. Was a huge part of the inspiration for this iteration. I totally respect why you'd dislike it, though.

    4. The same goes for Reclamation Sage, of course. I think they struck a nice balance with Acidic Slime because you can always at least nab something.

      As a corollary, I think a good rule of thumb I've learned from working on this kind of thing is that you should immediately mentally red flag any creatures that are cheap but that you're incentivized not to cast on curve. Curve is really important for limited, and it is nice when you can make a 2 drop that is not a horrible topdeck late in the game, but the main job of 90+% of 2 drops should be to be played on turn 2.

      This certainly isn't a hard rule, of course, the occasional Deputy of Acquittals is great, but I think Dragonmaster Outcast is a mistake.

      Certainly this is something I catch in playtesting all the time: It looked like I had plenty of 2 drops for limited, but actually no one wants to play any of them on turn 2.

    5. Conditional ETB effects could be its own discussion, and not a short one.

      Here's the tip of the iceberg:

      Compare, "When ~ ETB, [conditional effect]" to one of the mechanics I suggested for Muraganda back in GDS2: "Resourceful — When ~ ETB, choose one — Either put N +1/+1 counters on ~; or [conditional effect]."

      Once you balance for the fact that Reclamation Sage or Slayer of the Wicked could be bigger when you don't need their abilities, the end result when you do is smaller. Resourceful gives you a choice, and choices are powerful, but that power comes at a cost.

      Resourceful Slayer of the Wicked {3}{W}
      Creature — Human Soldier (unc)
      Resourceful — When Slayer of the Wicked enters the battlefield, you may destroy target Vampire, Werewolf, or Zombie. If you don't, put a +1/+1 counter on it.

      Reclamation Sage {2}{G}
      Creature — Elf Shaman (unc)
      Resourceful — When Reclamation Sage enters the battlefield, you may destroy target artifact or enchantment. If you don't, put a +1/+1 counter on it.

      I expect this to appeal to you more, Tommy, (and many players, incl myself at one time) but appreciate that it won't appeal to everyone more, because by having a consolation prize for when their abilities aren't relevant, the total package when they are is less impressive.

      It goes back to the story MaRo loves to tell about Kavu Predator. He played someone else's deck with a placeholder card that just sayed "1G 2/2" and did well with the deck. Then, someone told him that card wasn't Grizzly Bears, but Kavu Predator, and with the option to save it for a few turns for a bigger creature, Mark played it as a bear less and subsequently did poorly. This idea of holding onto a card until we can get maximum benefit from it is universally natural and takes discipline to overcome. But they still make kicker, and Slayers of the Wicked, and other cards that challenge your notion of when it's best to play them. It's a skill differentiator: Both something that helps skilled players do better, and an opportunity for new players to learn and feel good about leveling up their game. That said, it's also something we don't want to do too much for the reason you stated: That tension can feel bad. A little tension engages players, but too much tension breaks their concentration, feels unfun, and disengages players from the game.

      How much is too much? I have no idea.

    6. I agree these things can be skill testing, though I think they are skilltesting in a way where you get punished hardest for making the right decision. If you don't play your Reclamation Sage when you are supposed to even though it has no targets, maybe you take some extra damage from their Goblin Roughrider, or maybe your board presence advantage slowly withers away and they stabilize at 2 and eventually win. The "I did the wrong thing" connection is very weak. If you do play it, correctly, in that spot, it is hard to even appreciate it as the direct cause of you winning the game. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with that: some non-transparency in game design is an indicator of depth.

      On the other hand, when you do make the right decision and play the thing out and then your opponent drops his Scuttling Doom Engine, it is a very powerful opposite message. The same is true when you incorrectly decide to hold your Reclamation Sage and then your opponent happens to drop a Soul of New Phyrexia and you get this huge reward for the wrong play.

      I don't think this is particularly rewarding for new or experienced players, though perhaps I am underrating the general appeal of the "gotcha" moment.

      I think this (very fascinating) discussion is part of an ever larger discussion on the pros and cons of cheap, narrow answers (like Naturalize and Dispel).

    7. I don't, by the way, feel any of this tension with abilities like Kicker. I have control (to some extent) over whether or not I draw my fifth land, and I know the probabilities it will happen... I'm making an informed decision.

      Whether my opponent will play a target and let me get a totally sweet 2-for-1 is much less known, unless it is game 2 or 3. I do think that sideboarding is one of Magic's most interesting gameplay, and I like these kinds of cards more the more I know about my opponent's deck.

      I don't think, by the way, that Resourceful really addresses the particular feeling of regret I'm averse to here. I don't think I feel better that my Slayer is a Hill Giant when you play an Olivia next turn.

      I think the best solution to this problem that we've seen so far is Monstrous from Theros (e.g. Keepsake Gorgon), which gives both players more information and avoids that nasty "gotcha" moment. Something like:

      Slayer of the Wicked 2W
      Creature - Human Soldier

      3W: Monstrosity 1.

      When ~ becomes Monstrous, you may destroy target Vampire, Werewolf, or Zombie.


      Fills the same role while giving more play to both players (for example, your opponent can kill it before they player their Olivia), and smooths out my loss aversion. There are obvious issues with using an ability called Monstrous on something called Slayer of the Wicked, but that is just an example.

    8. Note: I'd be quite happy with something like this with a non-+1/+1 marker indicating that the ability had been used.

    9. I would argue no cards should be as strong Scuttling Doom Engine or Soul of New Phyrexia, but your point stands if its just Juggernaut. (Also Reclamation Sage doesn't even fully negate either of those cards, but that's not the point.)

      One could argue that playing Sage with no targets only to have a target land next turn isn't the correct play, but that's a slippery slope of an argument. Nonetheless, guessing whether you'll have a target soon or not is a fundamental part of Magic. In essence, *every* choice is based on what we think our opponent has, will have, could do—and that's the very core of the game.

      If I play Reclamation Sage to block your Goblin Roughrider, I'm either thinking there aren't that many artifacts or enchantments around that I need to worry about, or that I'm not going to have any other answers to that goblin soon. If you play Juggernaut next turn, that's my 4:1 odds going lumpy, or its an opportunity cost I couldn't have afforded to pay regardless. It's not really any different than the choice to play my second creature this turn or to remove yours; One will be right if you've got no more creatures to play but wrong if you've got tricks or removal, and vice versa. They might both be wrong, or both right, depending on your hand.

      I'm not saying resourceful solves your problem. In fact, I chose it because it's much closer to what you want than Slayer of the Wicked but still not particularly good. I agree that monstrosity serves that desire better. Even that's flawed; I can now destroy your Monstrous Slayer before I play my vampire, or in response to you paying to destroy my vampire. We're just deferring the chance-knowledge-bonus relationship.

      None of this is to negate the fact doing something one way and finding out later it would have been better the other way feels bad. I'm saying that Wizards has demonstrated that the game needs more than none and less than all of this kind of thing, and I agree.

    10. I don't claim all my feelings here are rational. If I Doom Blade my opponent's Grizzly Bear and the next turn he plays a Baneslayer Angel, I feel completely at fault. I have no problem owning that.

      I have a hard time explaining why that feels viscerally different than Reclamation Sage example. I think it has to do with how educated a guess I can make.

      For the record, I consider the fact that you can now destory my Monstrous Slayer all upside. It adds interaction and "play", and lessens the negative feeling on the other side of the table when the thing actually does kill your awesome Vampire bomb.

      It is definitely possible this is more a leak in my gameplay than it is a true part of my design philosophy. Definitely a great discussion either way!

    11. Agreed. I'm grateful for this talk.

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. I like all of these, but feel that what made the original really cool was that it could lose the fight.

    14. I think "it can lose the fight" is going to be really hard to capture in a card that plays well.

    15. I'm using "plays well" in an experience of play game design way and not a power-level kind of way.

    16. To elaborate slightly, I think that kind of variance is really hard to put on cards that people enjoy playing. It is reminiscent of Clash, which did not fare well. Also cards like Growth Spurt from Unglued did very poorly, I think because of this uncertainty.

      Of course, cards with high variance are great from a gameplay point of view because they do wonderful things for replayability. But as Mark has said in one of his podcasts and several articles, it is better for it to vary between good options.

      Also, to clarify, I don't think "it can lose the fight" is impossible to get on a card that plays well, and I think it is a great flavor to capture. I think the key is finding a way to represent it losing the fight that doesn't translate to card disadvantage.

  7. "If I Doom Blade my opponent's Grizzly Bear and the next turn he plays a Baneslayer Angel, I feel completely at fault. I have no problem owning that.

    I have a hard time explaining why that feels viscerally different than Reclamation Sage example."

    For me, it's because 1) playing a vanilla creature on-curve is inherently unexciting, 2) creatures with two-for-one ETB abilities tend to have poor bodies relative to their cost, and 3) the main draw to playing these guys at all is their ETB ability, so when you don't get the "chance" to have it go off it feels bad.

    Doom Blade and Kavu Titan don't have this problem. A Doom Blade is an efficient kill spell whether you're using it to kill a Bear or an Angel. A Kavu Titan is an efficient vanilla dude whether you're casting it as a 2 mana 2/2 or a 5 mana 5/5. But there is definitely a "bad case" scenario with Slayer/Sage, since if your opponent's deck has 0 targets you're stuck with a card in your deck that's strictly worse than an equivalent common vanilla (Hill Giant/Gray Ogre), regardless of when you cast it.

    I also think Dragonmaster Outcast is a fine design (at rare/mythic). He's essentially a six-drop in disguise. A 1/1 vanilla body doesn't really have a place in a creature curve anyway, Equipment combos notwithstanding.

    1. You say that. I think there will be a number of times when it's correct to drop Dragonmaster Outcast turn 2 after you see your opponent's 2-drop 3/1 or similar.

    2. There are certainly times when a one mana 1/1 isn't totally dead, but it isn't particularly common.

      To contrast my statement about not liking the design of Dragonmaster Outcast, I do like reasonable on-curve creatures that somehow "level-up" to have a greater value in the late game: Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, Woodborn Behemoth, Wildheart Invoker, etc. These cards do two jobs, the "advertised" one of being a 2-drop or whatever and an additional late game job.

      Dragonmaster Outcast (which is perhaps a bad example because it is a mythic) doesn't do its advertised job. You can play it on turn one, but you shouldn't (well maybe it is right sometimes, but very rarely). I think there is certainly room to bend this, when there is a good reason, for example Faerie Impostor is in no sense a one drop, but it costing only 1 mana is necessary to enable the desired play style.

      Playwise, there is no reason for Dragonmaster outcast to be a one cost 1/1. Looking at it from a wholistic point of view now, though, I see a strong aesthetic reason for there to be the contrast between the tiny 1/1 body and the giant Dragons it makes. On a mythic, I think bending to that kind of aesthetic consideration and then costing the card as aggressively as possible is perfectly reasonable, so I withdraw my complaint about Dragonmaster Outcast.

    3. Would you rather play a Naturalize than a Reclamation Sage, Tommy? Jenesis?

    4. Prefer in what sense? I certainly pick Reclamation Sage very highly because of the blow-out potential (plus there is less feel bad when you have three of them). The fact that the card is so good makes me pick it highly and play it, that doesn't affect whether or not it leads to feel bad game play.

      Indrik Stomphowler, I should note, has this issue much less, because by the time you can play it your opponent has played out much more of their hand. Kinsbaile Skirmisher and War Priest of Thune being worse offenders.


      Naturalize I'm probably not running except out of the sideboard (though sometimes). I don't really love Naturalize from a design point of view in that it randomly nets huge mana advantage at the cost of often being dead.

      The absolute best part of Planeswalker design, to me, is that they made interacting with / removing planeswalkers a built in part of the game: just attack them. There is no need to print "destroy target planeswalker" in the first set. I think in an ideal world, interaction with artifacts/enchantments would be similar.

    5. Oh, for sure. Indeed, my partner and I use a significantly more generous mulligan system, though I think it might actually be worse in terms of overall experience/stress, but that is another discussion.

      The goal of game design isn't to have no feel bad moments, but if they can be elegantly avoided, I think they should be. A favorite example is the oft cited example of Visara, which is a very powerful card that is, it is argued, none the less poorly designed, because using a tap ability on your 5/5 flier feels bad.

      I think one of the most important parts of design is making the cards "feel right" when you play them. This is a somewhat ineffable quality, really, but I think there are a lot of specific categories where we can identify that a card doesn't feel right.

    6. I'd rather play Reclamation Sage than Naturalize, but I'd rather play Abrupt Decay or Centaur Courser than either one.

      And yes, mulliganing feels bad. I don't know why, but I've found players will go out of their way to psychologically justify keeping terrible hands far more often than they're willing to mulligan marginal ones. Wishful thinking maybe?

    7. Thought of another solution we've seen that should be more palatable: Keening Apparition. No reason not to play the creature asap. And can use its bonus ability as long as it survives.

      Morph creatures also let you have your cake and eat it too, without letting your opponent's know what's coming.

      Do you two get updates on this convo, or just check it often?

    8. And to that end:

      Dragonslayer Knight {W}{W}
      Creature-Knight (unc)
      First strike
      {3}{W}, Sacrifice ~: Destroy target creature that dealt damage to you this turn.

    9. I agree, of course, that mulliganing feels bad. I see players tilt before turn 1 *all*the*time*. The question is whether we do something about that, or accept it. Seems like R&D has accepted it (to the point that they've justified how it makes the game Better). I still think there's a better option than paris-mulligan, but I don't see R&D changing that tradition unless the solution is both vastly better and strictly better.


    This is similar to what y'all are up to.