Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tesla Horizons: Missing Piece

We've been in exploratory design for Tesla for quite a while now, and in that time we've considered a truly staggering number of mechanical realizations of our progress theme and the trappings of a steampunk setting.

Soon we'll be moving into design proper, but once we have a card file every tangent means we then have to reacquaint ourselves with said file. For that reason, we want to do as much of our exploration as possible now.

Before the shift I'm going to compile a comprehensive list of all of the mechanics we've ever discussed for this project that I think could really carry the design. This is not to preclude the creation of new mechanics or revisiting other old ones, but rather is a means by which to ensure we have an accessible reference point to discuss our tools going forward.

To those ends I want to put out a couple of last calls:

  • What do you still want to explore before beginning design?
  • Which mechanics should we keep in mind during design?

I've made an effort to dive into a lot of areas that have come up during our discussions, but I'm sure I've inadvertently glossed over something that you think has potential. What are you still itching to explore before we get bogged down with a card file?

Exploration by Florian de Gesincourt

Is there a mechanic we've been discussing that you think deserves continued consideration? Something that was mentioned and subsequently overlooked? A new take that you never got a chance to bring up or just now thought of?

I'd love to just vote on every mechanic, but frankly I can't expect everyone to read through two-and-a-half years worth of posts and I'm betting that my own biased analysis will be a better barometer than getting no votes for old mechanics because nobody could be bothered to read back that far. Then there's the issue of what's distinct enough to qualify as a different mechanic. Judgment calls are inevitable, so this is the balance I've decided to strike.

That said, if a lot of designers endorse a mechanic that I hate, you can bet it'll go on the list and I'll be taking a good hard look at what they like about it. On the other hand, I won't be cluttering this list with numerous tiny tweaks on the same basic idea. I'll just include the version I feel is most promising and trust that we can revisit the variations if and when the mechanic comes up. If mechanics are playing around in good space, but don't quite deliver, I'll post a new take for discussion before sticking that into the list as that category's representative.

So that's all there is to it. What areas would you still like to explore? What mechanics should we keep in mind for Tesla design going forward?

EDIT: There seems to be a lot of confusion about how exactly the process we're using works. Exploratory design doesn't lock anything in for the set; it maps the territory so design can have some idea what it's picking between when selecting space to work with. We're not selecting mechanics to go "alright, we've got our mechanics now." We're doing it to codify our ideas about what avenues have the potential to support a set if we pursue them in design proper. Things like a cohesive identity and feel for the set come later. For now, we just want to determine what could work.


  1. I really would like to better determine tribes/ factions and potential tribal synergies with the mechanics we have proposed, personally. However we have seen so many takes on mechanics and what the world is about I am no longer sure where we stand. A set needs a lead to point out what is going on and help us focus our attention. As it is I feel we have explored A LOT! Time to settle.

    1. Shortly it will be. As addressed in the edit above, settling isn't really what exploratory design is about, but we'll get there.

  2. The two mechanics that stand out to me as head and shoulders above the rest in terms of excitement and ability to carry a theme were the Mecha transform-and-combine and Access.

    I would love it if we could try to find a way to combine the progress mechanics with the Mecha transform-and-combine to make the 2-for-1 potential less feel-bad, and/or to further reward the goal of making the big combination happen.

    1. For those who may have missed it, Access (or Access the Machine) originally proposed here: http://goblinartisans.blogspot.com/2014/11/tesla-file-sharing.html?showComment=1417040032457#c9197900567471765257

    2. Further ideas I proposed: http://goblinartisans.blogspot.com/2015/02/tesla-mapquest.html?showComment=1423677424751#c8722103786128759384

    3. I didn't see this before. I don't know if it's workable, but I like the idea. Like Allies or Landfall, everything triggers at the same time, but based on paying a mana amount instead of something else, and potentially shade-esque in that you can pump multiple times without the cards competing for mana.

      That feels progress-y and potentially simple enough for common. And it feels like it could be balanced well, in that if you can activate it at all, activating multiple is nice but not overwhelmingly stronger.

    4. I've never seen the appeal of the transform/combine cards. Obviously they appeal to many people, which is great. However, they are incredibly restrictive design-wise, and even more constrained development wise.

      Access the Machine has a pretty awesome story to go with it, but as I pointed out at the time, I think it is pretty undeveloppable.

      Keyword design is very difficult. I've designed many hundred for my game, and almost none survive. Even WOTC's success rate with keywords has been fairly poor. There are just so many ways keywords can go wrong: there can be not enough design space, it can not spread across colors the way you want, it an be difficult to develop because it is too good, or too bad, or too swingy... the keyword can be uninteresting in volume, etc. etc.

      I've seen a lot of discussion of good ideas for Tesla, but I'm not sure I have seen anything that is really "design ready." I also think that trying to define a set by its keywords is a very Urza's Saga Era view towards design, and I don't necessarily think we need to agree on keyword mechanics.

      The main identity for Tesla that I've seen show up time and again is that artifacts and the graveyard both matter, with artifacts being the main theme and the graveyard being a secondary one. I've also seen a lot of discussion of progress as a theme, but nothing has sold me on that idea or given me a sense of what that might really mean thematically or mechanically (which is not to say it doesn't have potential!).

    5. As addressed in the edit to the main post, we're not choosing keywords and going from there. We're trying to determine what mechanical themes could actually work if we pursued them. To that end, nothing has to convince us its ready to go out the door, just that it has real promise.

      To that end, our identity's not locked in when it comes to questions like "will Tesla have a graveyard subtheme?"

      As for the progress theme, it's less a mechanical space and more an experience. We want playing with Tesla to make players feel like they do when finally making a breakthrough on a Sudoku puzzle that's been stumping them, like they're more capable now than they were before, and like everything is on the verge of changing.

      How we might go about eliciting those feelings with mechanics is what we've been exploring for these past few months.

    6. Wow, thank you guys for the compliments! It means a lot.

      I think Access the Machine is, indeed, very difficult to develop. But trying to work with it in design, I think, is a fine goal, and we can try to find the right numbers to open the most design space. It doesn't need to be an infinitely-deep mechanic - as long as we can find enough designs to support a set's worth, the cards should work.

      I personally have moved on a bit from Access the Machine, for a simple reason: while I find it interesting and exciting, it doesn't interact well with other mechanics. It's better as a subtheme, a side-theme of the set, rather than a mechanical focus. Think of it like devotion - devotion served important purposes in the set, but wasn't truly necessary to it, just serving as a supplement to the set's mechanics. The real focus was the interplay between Heroic, Bestow, and Monstrosity.

    7. As for Mecha/Access: Both were already on my short list. Mecha have some real issues with ignoring the rest of the set, but there may be implementations that skirt the issue (for instance, Scavenge Style if we end up with a graveyard theme: http://goblinartisans.blogspot.com/2014/05/teslagetting-gears-turning.html)

    8. Access may prove undevelopable, but if it otherwise fits I'd certainly like to give it a fair shake before deciding that.

  3. A serious mechanic I think worth exploring is non-BFM DFCs. We can use them as an obvious, board-readable, counter-free way of tracking or displaying Progress. We also can explore a lot of top-down designs with DFCs in a setting very different from Innistrad - in a world of artifacts, change can have a different meaning.

    With creatures -> creatures, we can illustrate creatures improving their skills or changing form. (INN did this, and evocatively, but it's certainly not space that's been drained.)

    With creatures -> artifact creatures, we can show the denizens of Tesla merging with technology, unlocking hidden secrets, or finishing their technological masterwork.

    With creature -> noncreatures, we can show creatures attaining an ideal (similar but more splashy and/or readable than Kamigawa's flip cards), forming an institution, or leaving behind a legacy/remnant (if themes of loss/recovery/salvage become prevalent.)

    With artifact creatures -> nonartifact creatures, we could tell a Metropolis-style story, of constructs finding the means to become flesh/human/alive, in a truer sense.

    With artifact noncreatures -> artifact creatures, we can look at technology being activated, golems/walkers/mechs coming to life, with anything from jade statues to vehicles to our set's equivalent to Eldrazi.

    With artifact creatures -> equipment, we can look at another way of doing vehicles, or effectively creature mounts, with a very different rules baggage from Bestow.

    These are just some brainstorms, and there's certainly a lot we have to get right with them - what sort of trigger flips them? Which types do we want to include, and which flip once and which can flip back and forth? How do these interact with the other mechanics in the set? But I think those are answerable, workable questions, and I think DFCs in an artifact world have untreaded developable promise.

    1. Yeah, I too agree that DFCs seem like a smart idea. We don't need them to have a flagship mechanic or anything - but just having them in the set, filling a flavorful and purposeful hole, seems like a smart idea.

      The question is how to mechanically differentiate them more than just types. Do they accumulate charge counters and only transform after they hit a certain threshold? Do you pay a certain amount of mana to transform them at any time as a sorcery? What's the idea?

      DFCs can serve a lot of purposes in the set, and fill a lot of flavor, but I do think they have one vital weakness - they can be tough to make synergize with the rest of the set. DFCs in Innistrad did some really subtle and cunning things to work alongside the other mechanics of the set, so we'd want to emulate that - but Innistrad's DFCs were almost a work of art in that sense, and it can be tough to capture the same ideas without treading on the same ground.

      I do think further exploration of DFCs is a good idea.

    2. Agreed wholeheartedly. As Pasteur noted, they're more of a medium for some other mechanical through-line than one in and of themselves, but the technology allows us to add a lot of visceral oomph and comprehensibility to a wide range of expressions of progress.

    3. I think DFCs are a very smart choice for a world about change.

      If we also do graveyard stuff, they do limit a lot of the things we can do with cards in the graveyard (like caring about their power, say). I'm quite okay with that, though.

      I think playing with a lot of one off DFCs will naturally lead to something that "clicks" that we might want to expand to a mechanic.

      I think one way to rein in Access the Machine is to make it so everything only triggers once with it, which could easily be done by making accessing the machine transform creatures.

      I could also imagine a Monstrous like "Access the Machine only once each game" being really epic.

    4. Tommy: Access the Machine was inspired by Revolution, which worked exactly like that: It was "{7}: Transform all cards with Revolution".

    5. Yeah, I only didn't say it that way because I didn't want to seem like I was advocating my mechanics, and it could certainly be more general.

    6. Oh, right! You made Revolution! I completely forgot that! :P

      Dude, don't fear putting forward your own mechanic. It's an awesome mechanic! Be proud of your work, and if you think it's right for the job, advocate it! (:

      And I do agree - I think combining DFCs with Access the Machine will serve many purposes. To name a few:

      1.) It will give DFCs a mechanic, allowing them to be both flavorful hole-fillers AND a flagship for a mechanic.

      2.) It will give Access the Machine some more developable cards, and allow us to make them more exciting.

      3.) Having it be a 'one-time thing' makes it feel more like an "end-game achievement" rather than a "continual achievement", an important goal in my opinion.

      4.) It's really unique and cool! Being unique and interesting is a big thing!

    7. Agreed. At the end of the day it's human nature to overvalue our own designs, but once we're aware of that the best we can do is try to honestly evaluate what we think is best and fight for it. If you have a strong opinion, we all want to hear the arguments, regardless of who came up with the idea.

  4. I actually just started really assembling my own 'design document' of Tesla, keeping track of my favorite mechanics, and working on my own internal 'vision' of Tesla. It's rough, of course, but I do like where it's going. (:

    A few weeks ago, I ran through quite a few of the recent articles and pulled some of my favorite mechanics. (I know there were some gems hidden in the early days of Tesla, but we've sufficiently talked about those - I wanted to focus on recent ones that we've talked about less, and that reflect the current direction of Tesla more.)

    My goal in finding the mechanics was to classify them. I think building Tesla directly from the EXPERIENCE of the set is what we want to be doing. I agree wholeheartedly with Tommy - as I often do - that keywords are not the place to design a set, especially given our modern design sensibilities. We want to design an EXPERIENCE. And that experience is, in one word, PROGRESS.

    Okay, so we don't want to break down our set into quite that broad of a category. What does "progress" mean? What is the "progress" experience? In my vision, progress is many things: it's a sense of direction - it's a sense of achievement - it's an atmosphere - and it's a value.

    In "direction and achievement", we're going to see many of the mechanics we've focused on. Jules put it great just now: we want to make players feel "like they're more capable now than they were before, and like everything is on the verge of changing." Notice that this is really two separate feelings! We're giving the players something to LOOK FORWARD to, and a sense of TRIUMPH when they do so.

    For this reason, this mechanic is actually a little different than the "Hero's Journey" mechanics of Theros, which similarly attempted to capture a feeling of "achievement" - but in a vastly different sense. In Theros, the achievements were unbounded - it was a continual sense of achievement, perpetual growth, the journey that has no destination.


    1. But in Tesla, we're giving players a VISION. We're pointing something out - "look at what you're capable of!" - and then we're handing them the reins, patting them on the back, and getting them to solve the puzzle of how to get from HERE to THERE. This journey has an end!

      This is the "DIRECTION" aspect of Progress - you start with an idea, and you figure out how to get there. We've had a few mechanics that capture this idea, typically ones with triggers, conditions, or upgrades. DFCs are one great example - they promise a better version, but you don't start with that version. Some other random examples include threshold mechanics. For example, Build - "Whenever you cast a spell that costs 5 or more mana, EFFECT" - was suggested last week, and that's a good example of encouraging you towards a specific future. There was also Breakthrough, "If you spent five or more mana on spells this turn", which was similar but not quite the same.

      There are also other kinds of continual progress, as well - Iteration, Experience with (color), Progress (that looks at CMC in the graveyard). These ones are not bounded - they don't have an end-game goal in the future - but they still capture the same sense of triumph.

      I think we want both kinds of achievement in the set, but we want to focus on the "end-game" achievement, for a few reasons: it feels different from Theros; it feels more fitting to the flavor of "invention" and "production"; and it creates more satisfying moments. Instead of a lot of smaller achievements (like Heroic), it's one BIG achievement, which can make for more memorable stories and more impactful cards!

      Now, what are the mechanical areas of Magic that can best capture "end-game achievements"? In a previous article, I argued that the best way to capture this is BIG SPELLS. Big, "uncastable" spells represent the lofty dreams of many Magic players - who hasn't envisioned casting some crazy spell like Worldfire or Enter the Infinite at some point? - and I think that wonderful sense you get when you pay 6 mana to cast a game-ender is a PERFECT representation of "end-game achievement". If we can cultivate mechanics that make you think about - and look forward to - casting these spells, we can cultivate a sense of looking to the future, then exulting when you reach it!


    2. Alright, so we still have two aspects of the overall theme of "progress" left: atmosphere, and value. These can be combined into a broad category: "setting"! In Tesla, these people are crazy about progress. The entire world focuses on progress, and the people emphasize it over many other things - including nature, and maybe even human lives. That's going to make for an interesting society!

      The first possibility of capturing this atmosphere - and it's one that EVERYONE here knows - is artifacts! Artifacts are technology, and technology is popularly seen as progress in Western culture. We've had MANY keywords that focus on artifacts. My personal favorites of the bunch have been: Two-brid, "Charge" (the Battery token mechanic), and Access the Machine. Two-brid works well with Experience and Progress and Build, and really makes for a cool sense of "a world so focused on artifacts, their magic and their artifact are mixing" - "Charge" helps the possible theme of big CMC - and Access the Machine is fun, flavorful, and also serves as an "end-game achievement" to look forward to.

      This is also where "the graveyard theme" comes in. Progress is a double-edged sword - by striving for the future, we must discard the past. We've seen mechanics like Fuel, Upgrade, and Progress (the mechanic) that make you think about the graveyard, and those mechanics seem vital to this set's mood and feel.

      At the same time, though, Progress is also kinda against the theme of the set - it's making you look at what you've done, not what you have yet to do. For this reason, I've grown less fond of Experience with (color) and Progress as of late. It's fine to rest on your laurels - and I still find them fun mechanics - but if we want to capture the mechanic of "striving for the future without regards to the past", then two mechanics that literally say "look at the past" may not be the best idea!

      In addition to this, the graveyard theme also helps support the "society" of Tesla. Steampunk, which Tesla seems to be, is vitally about class warfare, inequality, and the brutality and ruthlessness of those who support 'progress'. This is one aspect of what I meant by "value" - in Tesla, people value progress over other people.

      For this reason, mechanics like Fuel, Upgrade, and Exploit (a reprint!) are good ideas. We could also do Venture (Affinity for tapped creatures you control) and the "colorless theme" (caring about colorless mana) to better represent these ideas as well.


    3. To sum it up: "progress", to me, is a theme that is defined by "striving for a future without regard to the past". The best way to represent this theme is with artifacts, "big spells", and a theme of ditching stuff to the graveyard. (But not really CARING about the graveyard - don't look to the past, look to the future!)

      I think the best way to represent "striving for a future" is with "end-game achievements" - cards that make you LOOK FORWARD TO A BIG, DIFFICULT SOMETHING. Present the players a puzzle with a promise, and they'll be itching to solve it!

      End-game achievement mechanics: DFCs, Build, Breakthrough, "Access the Machine"

      "BIG CMC" mechanics: Breakthrough, Build, Component, Aspire N

      There are also "continual progress" mechanics, that help give players smaller, more common achievements, so they don't spend the entire game tense:

      Continual achievement mechanics: Iteration, progress, experience

      In addition, progress=technology, so artifacts are important:

      Artifact mechanics: Access the Machine, Two-brid, "Charge"

      And then we also have "without regards to the past", a society of oppression that uses anything as a resource:

      Oppressive mechanics: "Charge", Exploit, Upgrade, Fuel


      Hopefully this analysis helps. It was kinda rushed, and I find it difficult to get all my thoughts down in real concrete terms, and I get the unshakeable feeling I'm forgetting some real great mechanics... so, if you have any questions, concerns about my thoughts, or suggestions for more mechanics you think I might have missed, please, comment away! (:


    4. Thank you for putting this all together! You noted a really key point that I'd completely missed because I was thinking too hard about the workings of the real world and not hard enough about society's view of progress, and that's what we want to hit. Every bit of progress made builds on what came before, and in fact focuses on something particular to be improved upon. But that's not how progress feels. You hit the nail on the head: progress feels like looking forward!

    5. slow. clap.

      This is damn well said, Inanimate.

      In particular, I want to call out the need to differentiate Tesla's progress from Theros' achievement, as they are quite similar in most ways.

    6. Thanks. The compliments mean a lot coming from you two. (:

  5. We need a smoothing mechanic. Dig might well no longer be relevant to the set depending on which collection of mechanics we run with, but every set needs something to help make each game feel like Magic.

    1. Agreed. And I think our smoothing mechanic totally needs to be focused on the 'difficult end-games' that we're using for achievement.

      I identified a few possible smoothers in the last post ("What's it Gonna Cost?") but the best one so far, in my opinion, is "Charge":

      Put an artifact token named Battery onto the battlefield. It has "{T}, Sacrifice Battery: Untap target artifact or land." (With the debated "Only during your turn" clause possibly being included...)

      This is great because it can serve as mana-fixing, mana-ramp, and gives us multiple forms of artifact interaction, all at once! That's awesome!

      It's got some complexity difficulties, but no more so than Eldrazi Spawn, I think. "Charge", to me, seems like it has a lot of potential.

      Component and Underly, both suggested by Jules, were also fantastic smoothers:

      Component (You may permanently reveal a card in your hand that costs more than ~. That card costs {1} less to cast.)

      Underly (You may exile ~ from your graveyard to pay for {1} when casting a spell that costs more than this.)

      Now, these don't fix mana, nor do they assemble the right cards. But they do help you cast big things, and if this set is about artifacts and big spells, that's going to be important!


      We can also look to past Magic sets for inspiration.

      Color-fixing: Morph for Khans of Tarkir. Landcycling for Shards of Alara.

      Card-assembling: Cycling for many sets. Scry for Theros.

      Curve-correcting: Kicker and its variants. Morph. Delve. Convoke. Eldrazi Spawn. Cycling. Suspend.

      The question is, what does our set look like it needs?

      If we're operating on the assumption that the set is going to care about "big spells", we see three of these things are going to be very helpful: card-assembling and curve-correcting.

      Card-assembling will be useful when we need a specific subset of cards - big cards - to make some cards work. Scry was used in Theros because the set really wanted you to have targeting spells, for example.

      Curve-correcting are cards or mechanics that give big stuff early-game utility, or get big-stuff out earlier.

      So, what are some new ways to try these approaches, and to find similar solutions that feel more fitting to Tesla than Scry, Cycling, or Eldrazi Spawn?

      And remember, we don't want to be ditching our big spells and/or artifacts - we want to be supporting them! So, for example, putting Cycling on all the big spells will make them feel less important in the set. We had this problem with one of Jay's cycling mechanics last post, since it encouraged ditching big spells.

    2. Quick note: I prefer Component to Underly because Underly makes you look to the past, while Component gives you a spell to look forward to casting. That's an important psychological difference!

    3. If we want to cast expensive stuff (which I think most visions of progress do), and especially if we want to do anything with the graveyard (which again has seemed a common theme), I think that land cycling is an excellent choice for a returning smoothing mechanic.

    4. I sorta agree, Tommy. There are two problems there:

      1.) Landcycling puts a focus on lands. That feels weird for a set about technology, which typically undervalues lands and nature.

      2.) What do we put landcycling on? Putting it on small spells feels weird, as those are the most cast-able. But putting it on large spells encourages ditching the spell, which we want to avoid.

    5. Y'all should investigate a thematic variation of the Tinder Farm lands from Invasion (which I think had a precursor in some other block).

    6. I'm not sure I agree that land-cycling puts an emphasis on land. It could, and would be a neat mechanic to put in a Zendikar-esque environment, but for the most part I find it just sort of melts into the environment. I certainly never felt like Alara was about lands. If anything, it makes me think less about lands because I don't have to worry about playing my spells.

      That said, I definitely agree this puts an awkward tension in a set that wants to care about expensive spells. It does also involve an unfortunately amount of shuffling.

      I've had some success with a mechanic like "name land or non-land, and reveal cards from the top of your deck until you hit a card of the chosen type and put it in your hand" for smoothing, but I worry that in Magic it would encourage really degenerate decks where it played like a tutor.

    7. metaghost: We're trying to identify an entire mechanic to serve to smooth out limited, metaghost, not just a cycle of cards.

      Though, technically, Ravnica's "smoothing mechanic" was just a crapton of fixing at all rarities, so...

    8. Tommy: Yeah, those kinds of mechanics typically enable Charbelcher-like decks. I do like the idea of your 'selective cantrip', though - seems worthy of exploration at the least.

      I don't think it puts a spotlight on land or anything, but I do feel it would distract from any possible themes or flavor we make that say "screw the land, go for technology!", you know?

    9. Is the set presumed to necessitate significant color-fixing? Or is it more about ensuring players feel confident they can hit their land-drops and successfully cast their progressive spells?

      Because if it's the second, I would advise against trying to reinvent the wheel here and rely more on concepts like cycling lands and Tinder Farms that let players feel comfortable running 18-19 lands.

    10. I have to say I'm not eager to give new players Tinder Farms. What if they accidentally use them?

    11. Hm, I hadn't even thought of just making the format one that encourages more lands and gives you ways to get around mana flood, metaghost. Smart idea.

      I don't think Tinder Farms are a good idea, for the reason Tommy noted, and I'm hesitant about cycling on lands for the same reason, though hopefully that causes problems less often.

      Are there any other ways we can encourage an 18-19 land format, with a more exciting/less troublesome mechanic than cycling on lands or lands that sacrifice for effects?

    12. Psst, nonbasic lands...

      Simple Workshop (COM)
      T: Add 1 to your mana pool.

      Trade Hub (COM)
      T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
      Tap two untapped artifacts and/or nonbasic lands you control: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

      Clock Tower (UNC)
      T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
      Tap four untapped artifacts and/or nonbasic lands you control: Untap target artifact.

      Surplus Scrapyard (UNC)
      T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
      Tap three untapped artifacts and/or nonbasic lands you control: Regenerate target artifact creature..

    13. I was considering something like common-level Gavony Townships.

  6. I haven't been super-involved in the Tesla discussion, but here are some random thoughts that I hope might be helpful.

    A lot of modern Magic blocks have a mechanical theme and a setting that are distinct from each other. Innistrad had a graveyard theme and a horror setting. Ravnica had a two-color theme and a city setting. Theros had an enchantment theme and a Greek-mythology setting. Tarkir had wedge-color and dragon themes and a time-travel setting. The difference is that the setting is mostly based on creative considerations, while the theme is a definite in-game concept.

    It's clear that Tesla has a steampunk setting, and we've come up with a lot of cool ideas to enhance that (the endless varieties of Mechas and vehicles, plus stuff like Cogs etc.). But what is the mechanical theme? My impression (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that we believe the theme is 'progress'.

    But 'progress' doesn't mean anything in terms of mechanics. The closest we've come is the cluster of ideas around spending mana / mana cost. I think this is a good start, but I also get the sense that artifacts are being considered as a mechanical theme, and that's drawing attention away from other aspects of the set.

    As part of moving into design proper, I would suggest that we formally decide what the mechanical theme is. My preference would be for a "spend a lot of mana at once" theme that we could take in a similar direction to the "battleship Magic" theme of Rise of the Eldrazi. Making the artifacts part of the steampunk setting rather than the main mechanical focus might help to distinguish Tesla from the Mirrodin blocks.

    That being said, I came up with a couple of ways that we could tune the 'progress' mechanics to be particularly artifact-friendly. We are so inundated with mechanics that I don't want these to be considered as new ones. They're variations on existing mechanics that hopefully will spark some discussion. Here they are:

    Outdated Mana Stone 3
    Artifact (Common)
    T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
    Industrial Revolution (Tap 10 untapped permanents you control: Transform all permanents with Industrial Revolution you control.)
    [something better on the other side, not sure what]

    Progressive Dude W
    Creature- Human Soldier (Common)
    CARDNAME gets +2/+2 if your progress is 4 or greater. (Your progress is the largest number of colorless mana in the cost of a permanent you control.)

    1. I hate to say the mechanical theme is "artifacts", but inasmuch as Scars' mechanical theme was "artifacts and poison", Tesla's is probably "artifacts and ____", with the ____ in consideration. This is another helpful way of looking at what we're looking for, though.

    2. I like Industrial Revolution as a concept for this mechanic more than Access the Machine. Nice flavor. Since it's just a common mana rock, I think the other side of Outdated Mana Stone could be something slightly better than Pristine Tailsman and Darksteel Ingot.

      Mana Refractor
      T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. You gain 1 life.

      Progress (we really need a different name just to talk about it.) being tied to the colorless mana symbol on permanents is a cool way to sidestep the CMC problem and is incredibly easy to Grok. We can argue what the colorless mana symbol really represents later, but I like that, as with devotion, it lets players evaulate cards in an entirely new way. And I like that it incorporates artifacts and colored spells equally well.

      Having said all that, I don't know if we want to use "Largest number of colorless mana in the cost of a permanent you control" as a threshold mechanic, or something different. Devotion was versy successful using that value to set the scale of effects. We may want to just do that.

    3. Yeah, ever since Tommy noted Revolution fits better for Access the Machine, I too have been thinking about it in terms of "Industrial Revolution". I will note, however, that we don't want to make it seem like revolutions happen all the time. :P

      I agree that Progress looking only at colorless mana is a smart idea, and I super dig that approach. We can use it much like Devotion was used - to set the scale of effects, as a threshold, and so on. And it encourages a completely different kind of deck than Devotion - in fact, almost the OPPOSITE kind of deck - so that's a nice bonus.

      A nice thing about this version of Progress - one that defaults to a threshold rather than a scaling value - is that it encourages players to 'look ahead' more. We want players to be yearning for the future, to be striving for something greater, and giving them lofty goals like "Progress 4 or more" or even "Progress 5 or more" really help with that.

      Industrial Revolution's 10 permanents is a smart idea, too. I like how it works with any kind of permanent, but I do think tapping enchantments/planeswalkers for it is kinda weird...

      Still Ipaulsen, it's a great idea. I love it, and I personally am rooting for it as a contender for the current {7} version!

      Also, on another note, I agree the mechanical theme is definitely something along the lines of "artifacts and lots of mana". We can approach lots of mana from many perspectives... Breakthrough encourages casting big things or lots of small things; Progress encourages big permanents; Build encourages big spells; and so on. We got lots of potential mechanics that care about 'big', it just depends on what kind of 'big' we're looking for. And that's where focusing on the experience and setting helps in narrowing it down. In my opinion, we want to emphasize 'visions and planning', so that means having the 'big' mechanic be a lofty goal, and triggered rarely.

    4. Re: Industrial Revolutions not happening all the time, I think it is worth considering an "only once per game" clause.

      Some transition that moves you into the new age permanently, so that cards can care about your golden age or whatever.

    5. I think that you can build colors that care about this in different ways. Like, we could have a Legendary DFC where once you've flipped it, it has "At the beginning of your combat step, transform all permaments with industrial Revolution you control" It would be a staple of most of the industrial Revolution decks using that color. I also think there could be red cards that reward you for flipping for Industrial Revolution over and over as you play more permanents.

    6. Industrial Revolution seems neat. Some basic designer instinct is telling me it's a trap, but I can't put it into words, so I'd rather try it and find out.

      Note that the numeric symbols in a mana cost are 'generic mana costs' and are different from 'colorless mana.' Which begs the question, if we say "Your progress is the greatest generic mana symbol among mana costs of permanents you control" how many players will understand what that means? Would be cool if the answer were 95%, but I'm skeptical.

    7. I like the idea a once-per-game revolution. Like monstrosity for players. In particular, I like the idea that it comes with a high cost/risk as well as big benefits.

      Industrial Revolution {5}{U}
      Enchantment rare
      All your creatures are artifact creatures and get +2/+2.
      Whenever you draw a card, lose 1 life and put a 2/2 colorless Drone artifact creature token OTB.
      At the beginning of your upkeep, draw a card.