Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CCDD 011415—Loan

Cool Card Design of the Day
1/14/2015 - I'm not sure loan has a ton of design space. Probably a bit less than phyrexian mana (since we'll probably only put it in a few colors) and less than delve (since the life loss can add up and we just don't want too many out there), but as a down-payment mechanic like morph and echo, I think it has at least one set's potential.

Each card with loan lets you defer any amount of the card's colorless mana cost. We can express that briefly in the reminder text by just naming that card's generic mana.

Loan would definitely be a black mechanic, and it's not hard to imagine in red. The other colors would be a bit of a stretch, but I'd expect the set to choose one of them anyhow. Perhaps white since it can offset the life loss like black can.

Loan looks better than it is. "I can Murder for {B} and some life?!" No, you can Slaughter Pact for as much life as you need. You can cast Advance Contract for {2}{B} now and {3} and 3 life next turn. You can cast it on turn 5 for a slight set back on turn 6. But if you cast it on turn 1, you're going to lose on turn 2.

Thanks to R Stech for pushing me to find a version that doesn't automatically lose you the game. It's more complicated, but requires less space on the cards. It's more flexible, which is good and bad (because it allows you to play a Coppernote Brute on turn 1 if you're willing to pay 5-9 life).


  1. Is there a way we can do this without losing the game being the downside?

    There is so much potential for feel-bad here (which the Pacts did as well, but this would be a whole SET'S worth, including at common) that it seems prudent to me to think of a way to either bound it (lose half your life?) or pay something else (your opponent gets a copy too? you sacrifice some permanents or discard some cards? maybe it changes based on what you got?).

    As fun as it is to win a game by Boomeranging a land or unmorphing a Brine Elemental, I don't think that's what the designers of the Pacts, or you here, had/have in mind.

    1. I think something like "You cannot cast spells until the loan is repaid." could work.

    2. Loan (You may cast ~ for up to N less. Get that many loan counters.)

      And then in most boosters:

      Loan Counter
      At the beginning of your upkeep, pay 1 life. You may pay {1} to sacrifice ~.

  2. Also got me thinking of other echo variants:

    Home Turf {G}{G}
    Sorcery (C)
    Down Payment {G} (Anytime you could cast a sorcery you may pay {G} and exile this card from your hand. During your next turn you may cast it for its Down Payment cost, otherwise, put it into your graveyard.)
    Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal two land cards. Put those into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

    1. What's the down payment on {3}{U}{U}?

    2. Downpayment doens't have to be an excact half. Sometimes it is, sometimes it's more.

    3. But it's always the same on both ends? That's what I'm asking.

      And I don't think it's possible to make one that costs less to break it up, unless the normal cost is massive and over-priced. Or something where the delay is a big deal, like Phthisis.

    4. I'd forgotten that post. This is almost exactly Predict. As for costing, it probably can't be less, but I bet we can come up with plenty of {3}{U}{U} cards that we'd rather pay {2}{U} twice for.

    5. In fact {2}{U} twice sounds like the perfect layover price for {3}{U}{U}.

  3. I was thinking this could fit as an orzhof macanic

  4. That loan counter execution is fantastic. I do wonder how many more "unwritten rules" mechanics like morph/manifest and poison the game can reasonably support, as rules knowledge is already a pretty high hurdle to entry.

    1. It's an interesting question. Even just "is it okay for the explanation of what a loan or poison counter means to exist outside the card that makes it" is interesting. Poison had some leg-up since it was already a defined thing in Magic's past, though that doesn't help any new players and those are the ones we need to worry about most for comprehension issues.

      Resonance seems like an important factor here. While few players would guess the exact execution of loan counters, they'd all be expecting something along those lines, and once they learn it, it shouldn't be hard to remember, even with no physical counters about to double-check.

    2. That kind of thing will add up over time, but if there's only one per Standard, I don't think it's any worse than our vague memories of rampage and other mechanics past.

      Just don't bring them all back at once in Time Spiral 2: Let's Cull the Audience Again

    3. Hmm. You say that. But the new players I've recently seen get into the game have been really interested in this thing called Commander. Singleton formats have a natural appeal to new players because they get to play all their oneoff rares they don't have 4 of. But Commander battlefields often tend to look like a greatest hits from all of Magic's history: many of the most confusing mechanics stick around indefinitely. Arcane Lighthouse gets to mention both hexproof and shroud; C13 and C14 both included multiple split second cards.

      Interestingly, poison is linear enough that you don't see it much in Commander, unless someone's playing Skithiryx; and anyone playing an infect deck in Commander will very quickly get infect explained to their opponents, at which point they'll understand it on the second and third card with it (even if they don't like it).

      Loan counters, on the other hand, are very modular. Which is generally a good thing, but when that means that single cards with the mechanic can get thrown into random casual decks all over the world, I think that does mean an extra caution is required if we're going to be adding a kind of complication that's not explained on the cards.

    4. A very good point.

      There's a massive downside to positioning Commander as The Casual Format, because it's got /more/ cards in it than Legacy and that's a completely astounding number of cards.

      I stopped buying the Commander products because they're not good entry points for new players. They're terrible. Not only does singleton mean they've got to read every card, but they tend to be complex and feature far too many mechanics.

      Loan seems like a drop in that bucket to me. Which is no way to say that it's not a problem and we should glibly ignore, but the opposite: We need to pivot Commander away from new players and give them something more approachable to latch onto. That's what I love about Limited and Block/Standard, but those aren't multiplayer formats and are generally not casual.