Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CCDD 032515—Commit (Kavu Dragon & Virulent Necrosis)

Cool Card Design of the Day
3/25/2015 - Commit is a new iteration on the idea I was pursuing with incant and predict over a year ago; Easing the mana burden of a spell in exchange for broadcasting your intention to cast it next turn.

Commit is simpler than predict, more flexible than incant, and shorter than both. It's also more interactive, giving your opponent a turn to make you discard it.

Commit could go on any spell type, but it's particularly relevant when it will have an immediate impact on the board when it resolves, which is why the creature I put it on has an ETB effect. When your opponent reveals Kavu Dragon or Virulent Necrosis, you have a turn to try and mitigate its effect… or to spend dreading the inevitable.

We can trigger effects off of the reveal itself (or the specific act of committing, if that proves broken), not unlike Infernal Spawn of Evil:

EDIT: Wobbles offered a version that's so much better I had to share it in the post.

I tweaked his reminder text a bit since we want to be clear where you can reveal cards from. To get it back down to two lines I changed the timing, though not functionally.

In addition to being shorter and simpler, Wobbles' commit isn't limited to being a cost-reduction mechanic. You could still do it that way ("If you committed to ~ during your last turn, it costs {1} less to cast") but now you can do tons of other things with it as well. Icing on the cake? You can now commit to instants you'd like to play on your opponent's turn!

EDIT: Was "When you commit, get at thrull" but Lobster rightly pointed out you could do it the same turn you cast Necrosis. This wording solves that (but degrades my previous suggestion that the trigger could require a mana payment like {B}).


  1. Very nice. This would be perfect in a set that is attempting to cultivate a mood of 'dread' - as you said, either your opponent's next turn is spent struggling to overcome the card, or spent dreading its casting. Even better, you don't HAVE to cast it, so the opponent can be mind-gamed into making a very bad play just to protect themselves from a threat that is never coming. That kind of asymmetric power is really essential to the feeling of 'dread'.

    Virulent Necrosis is really cool, but I actually think this is one card you'd want to keep as simple as possible. This is a simple effect we see often, but on a Commit card, the gameplay becomes INCREDIBLY different - now your opponent has the knowledge that they can throw out some small creatures to sacrifice. A few 'really simple but actually complex' cards are essential to a mechanic like this (which often relies on being a bit blunt) so I think this is one design where we'd want to conserve that space. Of course, the Thrull is really smart and fun, so it's fine as-is. (:

    One concern I have with this card is the timing. "During your next turn" means you can't use this n anything that wants to be cast during your opponent's turn - a counterspell, for example. Which is completely fine. Just a note.

    You can also reveal the card at instant speed, giving them a minimal amount of time to 'dread'. That seems like a bad idea, since this mechanic's "fun" part is the dreading. I recommend revealing can only happen at sorcery speed. That also makes triggers like the Thrull a lot easier to develop.

    Another problem is that the triggers are basically 0-mana spells. How many interesting triggers can we think of that cost no CA or mana? Answer: I don't think very many. Even the 0/1 is essentially a stronger Memnite, since it can be 'cast' at instant speed...

    Some other ideas of mechanics that become much more interesting when the opponent knows they're coming:
    Board wipes
    Any combat-important buff - Deathtouch, Regenerate, First strike, Flying
    Tap-down / bounce
    Remove target blocking creature
    Restriction-based casting - "Largest", "smallest", "[power/toughness] X or [more/less]", etc.

    Lots of design space. I like it.

    1. Commit definitely needs to be sorcery-speed. Can't believe I missed that.

    2. Yes, I assumed that it must be. I also assumed that if you didn't cast it next turn you could prepare it again if you wanted to and/or one preparation lasted as long as the card was still in your hand.

      And I assume it goes without saying you can't prepare it multiple times if it's already revealed :)

    3. Actually, it's my intention that you can't reveal a card that's already been revealed, and you only have a one-turn window to fulfill your commitment.

    4. Ah! Then I'm glad I asked, because rules-nitpicking produced an interesting question even if it's not important to the mechanic as a whole :)

      It makes sense that once people know what it is, you can't un-reveal it. But I thought it would be a problem if it hangs around revealed in your hand for the rest of the game.

    5. Why is the one turn window important? Realistically, it will be correct way more often than not to only do this one turn before anyway, but the gameplay is so much more grokkable if the cost reduction is more closely tied to the revealed status.

      I would test this version:

      Commit (You may permanently reveal this from your hand at the beginning of your endstep. Committed cards cost 1 less to cast.)

  2. Isn't Commit basically Suspend 1? How about an alternate template:

    Commit {3}{R}{R} (Rather than cast this card from your hand, pay {3}{R}{R} and exile it. At the beginning of your upkeep, cast it without paying its mana cost.)

    1. There are a few differences here.

      1.) Jay's version doesn't MAKE you cast it next turn. It gives you the OPTION to. That allows for a lot of fun mind games!

      2.) Jay's verison doesn't mention the words "exile", "upkeep", "without paying its mana cost", or use an alternative cost. For these reasons, it's vastly simpler.

    2. Oops, accidentally sent before I typed:

      3.) Jay's version doesn't force you to cast it upon upkeep. You can cast it any time next turn. This is important for many effects that want to be Committed - such as combat tricks. Check out my list of suggested effects, and notice that almost all of them are best done as instants.

    3. "Permanently revealing cards in your hand" isn't something Magic currently does. Not saying it shouldn't, but I'm not sure introducing new rules is a simplicity win.

    4. Introducing a new but simple rule seems preferable to using existing rules in complicated ways that remove a lot of intuition and possibility from the mechanic.

      Also Forecast is a mechanic that has a time-based reveal, to quote from the comprehensive rules: "That player plays with that card revealed in his or her hand until it leaves the player’s hand or until a step or phase that isn’t an upkeep step begins, whichever comes first."

      All we have to do for Commit is remove the "or until a step or phase that isn't an upkeep step begins, whichever comes first" part.

    5. I hadn't actually read through that rule. Glad to hear this is simpler to implement than I anticipated.

    6. I really like the design space of a "Permanent Reveal" and I've talked about it previously on the blog. Personally, I think I'd just do away with the mana reduction part of it.

      Kavu Dragon 4RR
      Creature Dragon R
      Commit (You may permanently reveal this card any time you could play a sorcery.)
      If you committed to Kavu Dragon during your last turn, when it enters the battlefield it deals 4 damage to target creature an opponent controls.

    7. Wow, I was already loving Jay's cards in the OP, but Wobbles's take on it is impressively streamlined. Not 100% sure it's better, but paring down the wording that much has to count for something.

    8. Yeah, that's a really interesting version, it seems potentially more interesting and also simpler.

      I wonder if you could go further and let you charge it up multiple times. You'd have to be careful with effects that aren't too much more powerful in multiples. But say, reveal this on two turns on the trot and the third turn cast it to do EIGHT damage to target creature.

      But that probably doesn't add much over wobbles' idea.

    9. Wobbles' version isn't strictly better than mine, just vastly.

  3. I like this a lot. I like the feel of the sample cards.

    I wonder if it would be simpler if there was a mana cost. Something halfway between this and predict/incant or suspend. Say "Prepare 2 (You may pay 2 and exile this from your hand. If you do, you may cast it from exile for 2 less.)"

    That locks in the payment and discount to be equal which often isn't the right choice, but is simpler templating. And revealing the card is implicitly part of the price you pay, even though not part of the "cost". And it simplifies the timing restriction, because spreading the cost over two turns is generally faster, without having to explicitly say "wait until next turn".

    I feel like we've discussed that mechanic before and I didn't like it at a time, but it made more sense after seeing prepare?

    I'm not sure between "Permanently reveal from your hand" and "Exile, you may cast from exile". Both work nearly the same way but have different edge cases. Exile is fiddly because you need somewhere to put your exiled cards and to remember to cast them (a big problem with suspend). Permanently reveal is fiddly because you have to hold them backwards or something, and if you don't cast them for multiple turns it might get hard to remember. I think what I actually want to know is where it's easiest to put these cards physically (in your hand, in your hand backwards, on the table, on top of your library face up) and then choose the rules to match what's easiest for players to actually do.

    Although actually, now I say that about dividing the cost, I suddenly realise that I've seen this mechanic on permanents before -- it's very close to echo.

    1. Prepare is good.

      At face-value, Commit is a cost-reduction mechanic. (And that was, in fact, what inspired its design—I was thinking about ways to ease the high-cost burden of a dragon set.) The trade-off is giving your opponent a round to prepare. The emotional impact of that and potential mind games were incidental to that purpose, but they're also what makes it a fun, interesting, and thematic mechanic.

      The primary reason to use a cost reduction mechanic is to reduce your costs, and since Commit only does that for your next turn, you want to reveal it right before you intend to cast it. Commit does let you change your mind, but you've spent your one reveal and will never get to reduce its cost again. You also have the option to fake your intention to make your opponent do something suboptimal (at the cost of the discount).

      Exile doesn't do that. If the exile has an upkeep trigger (like Predict), your card becomes use-it-or-lose-it, costing us some bluffing. If not (like Prepare), it just hangs out there indefinitely, which means we can prepare it whenever we have spare mana and the result is basically a Seal (of Doom, of Fire, etc). Neither of those are bad things, but Seals become placeholders for "as soon as I attack with this creature, it'll get Sealed" or whatever effect they're clearly going to have, and that's not as suspensful in practice as it sounds.

      Determining which physical action (exile or reveal) is more intuitive/comfortable is a great perspective. Keeping a card in your hand the other way would be awkward to do for multiple turns, even while you remember exactly what it is. As long as you use it next turn—which you will always do when using Commit at face-value—that awkwardness is quite brief. Arguably, the awkwardness of not purging your hand of the backwards card makes the bluff behind it stronger. On the other hand, players can forget about cards they've exiled—or that their opponents have exiled—and that can lead to feel-bad moments on both sides. Bears playtesting.

    2. I really like the original design of Commit, and all the subsequent discussions; if I may add something, template has to be really refined, based on simpleness, elegance, and most of all grokkability. It has to be clear that you can't commit on your opponent's EOT, that the cost reduction is only for the next turn, that the revealing is permanent, whichever proves more important to the design. As Jay said, it needs playtesting to assess those ones.
      (Also, a little nitpick on the name: It should be "Flametongue Dragon", Kavu is the creature type. Sorry for my fussiness, i'm just a bad person :D)
      All in all, a very good design, and a promising idea.

    3. I love Jack's insight that the thing to do is find out which physical action is easier out of exiling the card or revealing it in your hand.

      (I also was really thrown by the card seeming to be a crossbreed between a Kavu and a Dragon.)

    4. Thank you!

      The "Kavu Dragon" thing didn't really bother me, like a zebrafish isn't actually a zebra, just a fish LIKE a zebra. But I think wizards would avoid printing a card with Kavu in the name that didn't have Kavu in the creature type to avoid confusion.

    5. Haha. "Kavu Dragon" is clearly just a playtest name, but Flametongue Dragon is a stronger reference, and could actually be a cardname. Good call!

    6. Yeah, didn't meant to be pedantic, of course the name complains was me joking ;)

  4. Blogger ate mah comment!

    The way Necrosis is currently worded, you can reveal it then immediately cast it - I see no reason not to do that, ever. I think Commit needs a "you can't cast CARDNAME the turn you revealed it" rider.

    1. That's a problem.

      How about:

      At the beginning of your end step, if you committed to Necrosis but didn't cast it, put a 0/1 Thrull OTB?

    2. Or:

      At the beginning of your upkeep, if you committed to Necrosis during your last turn, put a 0/1 Thrull OTB.

    3. Even better—Remove the trigger entirely and keep it part of the spell's resolution:

      If you committed to Necrosis during your last turn, put a 0/1 Thrull OTB.

  5. The physical awkwardness of holding a hand of cards with one of them backwards (and trying to keep it visible to opponents) seems pretty off-putting to me.

  6. It occurs to me (two years later) that players will want a committed creature to have haste just like they did with suspend. If we do that, designs like Wobbles' Flametongue Dragon don't work anymore. Hmm.