Tuesday, May 5, 2015

CCDD 050515—Shocking Experiment / Enlightening Result

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/5/2015 - Let's explore non-permanent double-faced cards a while. The Sol Forge mechanic seems like a promising place to start: The first time you play a card, you 'learn from it' so that the next time you play it, it's stronger.

starting face

We could have the evolved side go to the bottom of your library, or N cards down, or shuffle it in, but that's going to increase the number of times players forget to revert its facing after the game, so I'd like to keep the card somewhere visible. I'd also prefer to avoid making the entire mechanic inherent card advantage since that will make it more expensive and less appealing, which is why I put it on top of your library where it will consume your next draw.

'evolved' face
Transforming your card is optional. While it will most often be great to do so in Limited, different game states will lead players to want different things, and sometimes you'd rather get back to drawing the rest of your deck. I expect that will be more true in Standard, even if this card makes it hard to imagine passing up a guaranteed Lightning Bolt.

By putting the transformed card somewhere all players can track it, we also address the inevitable issue of drawing a card that should be on its initial face: It will be clear to all players when that's the case, and so you can simply flip it back or play it as the correct side when you do cast it, at least in un-rated events.

There are some interesting alternatives as well. What do you think?


  1. I like the idea, but I don't think the physical mechanics are workable. If you print this, you're basically saying that in order to draft this set, you HAVE to have sleeves, since you can't use checklist cards to track whether a card is transformed or not.

    1. You could put the original card on top of the library.

    2. How do you meaningfully shuffle with a known card in your library?

    3. Why are you going out of your way to put a card on top of your library and then shuffle? Either you want the card and don't shuffle, or you don't want it, and don't put it on top.

    4. What if your opponent casts Path to Exile on your creature?

    5. Or maybe someone has a Maralen of the Mornsong on the board. Or maybe your opponent Spell Crumples your transformed spell.

  2. Very interesting implementation, I like the idea. My only worry is that putting it right back on top of the library seems a little... bland? I get a hunch that a guaranteed "you draw this next turn" lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.... it lacks a large amount of excitement or anticipation. It also has the unfortunate side effect of killing your next draw, which experienced players will be keenly aware of, but newbies will not. Many mechanics carry that 'cost', and it's not a super big deal. But I prefer new players being able to more clearly see why they lost a game.

    Anyway, back to my other point, in SolForge it's essentially shuffled (if I remember correctly), to keep a sense of anticipation, "hope to see you soon". That would obviously not work as well for this mechanic, and I'm not suggesting we do shuffle it back in the library. But I'm curious whether there isn't a way to achieve this effect with more tension and excitement.

    I really enjoy this iteration as-is, though, and I'm curious to see whether we could get something similar with permanents... when it dies, you get an 'upgraded' version you can access later... hm.

    1. A less predictable option:

      As long as this card is in your graveyard, you may transform cards with the same name as you cast them.

      So it upgrades each future copy you play.

    2. At that point, why not reprint Kindle and skip the DFCs altogether?

    3. How about:
      When you cast this spell, if it was cast from your graveyard, transform it.
      Flashback R

      I suspect a spell turning into a different spell on the stack is the sort of thing Tabak has nightmares about, but it might be workable.

    4. This particular card could clearly just be Kindle, Havelock, but DFCs allow vastly different effects. The backs don't even have to remain non-permanents. You could tell all kinds of stories.

      Good point, Jade. Both sides would have to have the same number of targets (and modes?) for that to work.

    5. Alternatively,
      If this card would be put into your graveyard, transform it.
      Flashback R
      If this card would leave the graveyard, transform it.

      A little messier, but less likely to make the rules manager want to hurt you...

    6. If you're flashing it back, I'd stick with the "Increasing" template of larger effects for the flashback. http://magiccards.info/query?q=increasing&v=card&s=cname

      Having a card do wildly different abilities on each half might make thematic sense, but it's hard to grok and prone to confusion. Also, the ability to mill yourself into having one of these cards is cool enough game play that I don't think you want the transform trigger on the spell itself.

    7. I do think the 'increasing' flashback template is the best execution of this theme. Transform makes it very pretty and tells a great story, but DFCs are just such a logistical pain. You really have to have a killer mechanic to justify them.

  3. Hex does this kind of thing rather a lot, and as much as I may have opinions about Hex, that is really the place for this kind of thing.

    The whole "Oops, I accidentally forgot to revert" thing is really a dealbreaker for me, since these things will get shuffled in, and there is no way of tracking or resolving disputes, especially since it is so to your advantage to "forget".

    1. You're not allowed to put the 'evolved' face in your deck before the game, so if you draw a card showing that face, you know it was by mistake. Importantly, if you try to cheat by playing that card without having played the starting face, your opponent would know. It's quite a bit more enforceable than it sounds.

    2. Right, but what Tommy is saying is if you cast this once, and then crack a fetchland and shuffle it into your deck (for example), how can you tell when you later hit another one that you forgot to revert?

    3. Jay, what you're suggesting would be issuing a Game Loss (for an illegally presented deck) in the middle of a game. I expect most players will not take kindly to that notion... and as a result will be more likely to attempt various kinds of shady behavior rather than call a judge as soon as they draw the card they know they shouldn't have.

      The only comparable scenario I can think of is failure to de-sideboard, but that's only possible in game 1, whereas this can happen in any game, including game 3.

    4. Why are you going out of your way to put a card on top of your library and then shuffle? Either you want the card and don't shuffle, or you don't want it, and don't put it on top.

      I'm fine with it being a game loss. Tournament players are already responsible for ensuring that their deck contains the correct number of cards between games, and the correct cards between matches. Again, there's no reason for any transformed cards to be anywhere invisible to players when the game ends, so it won't be hard to ensure they're facing the right way when you scoop up your cards.

      That said, we can make it more forgiving: When you draw a card facing the wrong way, it you didn't just transform it and put it on top of your library, then you flip it to the correct face. That can be a game rule or a tournament rule.

    5. What if players don't agree about whether it was cast this game? How often have you thought to yourself "Is this game one or game two?" while playing on MTGO? I say "I cast this on your bear in the graveyard this game" and you say "No, that was last game, you traded your bear with my bear this game."

      I get that you are bending over backwards to not have this card shuffled into your deck, but it will happen, and I think the key is to question why we're doing this if we're working so hard not to get it shuffled in. What is the upside?

      If you aren't familiar with Hex, I really recommend looking into it, as they get to do as much of this sort of thing as they want, being an online only CCG. In other news, prepare to be totally disgusted with humanity.

    6. The upside is that we can make cards that evolve. Cast it once at lower power level and then the next time it's a higher power level. Again, while the above card is very good, it doesn't show that potential well at all.

      Imagine Shock->Pyroclasm. Divination -> Mind Spring. Damnation -> Plague Wind. Blightning -> Cruel Ultimatum

      Checking on the existing rules for DFCs, I see this rule: "In every zone other than the battlefield, and also on the battlefield with its front face up, a double-faced card has only the characteristics of the front face." That would have to change to make non-permanent DFCs possible at all, but it and rules like it do show that putting the DFC into your library is a greater deviation.

      So what about other options? Lee's suggestion below is quite workable. Another option is to accept the reduced-read-value and make it card advantage (like rebound), by putting it right back into your hand.

    7. Is this more easily done with the Increasing Devotion technology?

    8. "Why are you going out of your way to put a card on top of your library and then shuffle? Either you want the card and don't shuffle, or you don't want it, and don't put it on top."

      Because you were going to play some kind of shuffle effect anyway, and if you're going to have a burn spell somewhere in your 60 you'd rather it be a Lightning Bolt in the library instead of a strictly worse Shock in the graveyard pretty much every time?

      "I'm fine with it being a game loss. Tournament players are already responsible for ensuring that their deck contains the correct number of cards between games, and the correct cards between matches."

      Again, de-sideboarding is only an issue in game one, and deck size can be quickly and easily verified with a pile count as part of shuffling. To verify empirical, assuming that you were distracted enough by sideboarding strategy that you didn't bother to check until you got that all settled, you need to flip your deck over and make sure that each one-mana burn spell is the right one-mana burn spell in between every game, and then shuffle extra times because you just saw the order of your entire deck.

      "Again, there's no reason for any transformed cards to be anywhere invisible to players when the game ends, so it won't be hard to ensure they're facing the right way when you scoop up your cards."

      In the hand IS invisible to at least one player. That's why we come down so hard on game rules violations that involve misplaying hidden information (such as Bob). Also, as a general principle, that will never be the case as long as the card Brainstorm remains legal in any format. Or effects that shuffle a graveyard into the library. Etc.

      Lee's suggestion avoids the problem of shuffling, but trades it for a mechanic in the style of GDS2 competitor Jon Loucks's illuminate (that, as far as I can tell, general WotC design principles have not budged on viewing negatively). It still has the issue of putting a transformed card into a hidden zone and possibly resulting in it going somewhere else. I'm not really seeing anything here that couldn't be done better as some combination of kicker, flashback, and rebound, without needing to put a card back into the hand.

      "Leveling up" cards doesn't really capture the Solforge feel to begin with because Solforge decks are required to start with all Level 1 cards that are by and large universally weaker than Level 2 cards, which are weaker than Level 3. You can play strong Level 1 cards that fall off late game and try to win quickly, or you can play cards at are haymakers at Level 3 but weak at Level 1-2 and try to win the long game, but because players advance in rank together, it's very rare to run into situations where, say, the best card in your hand is Goblin Guide while your opponent can play an Eldrazi. In Magic, depending on deck design, you can set up that situation easily. Magic's own turn-based "leveling" system is the one-land-per-turn rule, but unlike Solforge it can be circumvented by ramp spells, as well as decks with very flat curves that don't rely on the accumulation of lands to hit their desired power level.

      I'm okay with a simple rules change that lets empirical cards' night faces exist in zones other than the battlefield. I'm doubtful that the gameplay experience you claim you're trying to achieve, in light of all the other logistical issues, is worth it.

    9. The similarity to Jon Loucks' mechanic also occurred to me. Great minds!

    10. I also am unsure of the potential of the cards, I was merely showing that its possible to have the card be in view the whole time and still approximate the funtionality. I do think there is something to be said about having the spells Transform. Transformation is one of the most core aspects of life. Things become other things. Tapping into that word and idea is what made df cards worth executing in the first place.
      Having played an extensive amount of Solforge, there is no one in magic to clearly capture the idea of Leveling Up outside of...Level Up. Having spells with two halves feels like a very different flavor to me, but one that's got depth to it. ie:
      Ritual of Summoning 2BB
      Empirical (When this resolves, you may exile it, then transform it. If you do, At the beginning of your next upkeep play it without paying its mana cost and skip your draw step.)
      Put two 2/2 black zombie creature tokens onto the battlefield.
      Demonic Emergence
      As an additional cost to cast Demonic Emergence sacrifice two creatures.
      Put a 9/9 black demon creature token onto with flying onto the battlefield.

      That feels like two halves of the same spell, and also is mechanically distinct from flashback, etc, since it gives you a window to cast the spell. Its a way to extend the text of a card.

    11. Well said, Jenesis. In short, this mechanic doesn't begin to justify DFC technology when flashback and the 'increasing' cycle can accomplish much the same task without it.


      If you're going to shuffle anyhow, you're right it's better to have the lightning bolt in your deck than the shock. You'd still shuffle beforehand the vast majority of the time, to keep that bolt on top, but yeah, if you decided you didn't want to draw bolt next, and intended to shuffle regardless, you'd choose to transform it anyhow.

      Like the special frame treatment the Miracle cards got, we'd definitely give the back face of cards like these a very distinctive frame to help people identify them at a glance.

      The point of keeping the transformed cards in zones visible to at least one player is to make it easy for players to not mistakenly leave them transformed for a new game. Players can cheat a million ways. If a player knowingly cheats in this way, it's the same unethical act as cheating another way. And it's easier to catch since you can track each empirical spell your opponent casts.

      The comparison of Lee's adjustment to Louck's illuminate is spot on.

      I either forgot or never fully understood how SolForge works. Copying that was never the goal, merely the inspiration, though, so it doesn't really matter how close it comes to what they did, only whether it works for Magic. And we've established the mechanic doesn't survive translation to a physical game.

    12. You guys are missing the obvious:
      Just like the face-up card in the library designs I'm using in Dreamscape. Simply have shuffling your deck return all cards back to there original state.

    13. Cards that have transformed already go into hidden zones as their front face. That's the problem with transformational spells. Since don't sit on the table waiting to change, there has to be some intermediate stage where they can come back as something else. The only places spells can go that aren't hidden are exile and the graveyard. If they go to the graveyard, Flashback is probably just a better all around keyword. If they go to exile they require a significant amount of text to make work.

      I personally think transformational spells are worthwhile to explore, but they would have to have a reason to exist.

  4. Everyone is talking about the mechanical problems with putting this back on top of your library, and I agree that that has problems. So why don't we instead do something that mimics your draw step?
    Empiracle (When this resolves, transform this card and exile it.)
    On the transformed face, "At the beginning of your upkeep you may put this into your hand. If you do, skip your draw step."
    This keeps the functionality of having learnable, transforming spells without the potential rules headaches. I'd like to attack the to hand trigger to the Empiracle trigger, but I'm not sure that works.

    1. This is an excellent approach to design. It's easy to find issues, but going a step further and exercising your own skills to propose solutions to those issues is more productive, and gives you more exercise.

      It so happens that this solution is pretty good, too.

    2. You and I have very different approaches to design. My playtest time is incredibly valuable. If something is fundamentally unworkable, I don't want to spend playtest time on it.

      People telling you "I don't think this is workable, here's why" aren't being lazy or malicious, they're helping you sort "worthwhile mechanic that is workable and developable" from "every other mechanic." There are a lot more mechanics in the second pile than the first.

      Now, a joy of design is that the difference between "fundamentally unworkable" and "ready for print" can be a word or two here or there, so that certainly doesn't end the discussion. Even better, the idea might inspire other mechanics!

      But I think the people vetting your mechanics and telling you serious issues with them are just as valuable, even if as a designer it isn't what you want to hear. One of the greatest design addages you can learn with Magic style design is Fail Faster. The more honed your ability to reject an idea quickly, the more time you can spend on potentially fruitful ideas, and the better value you get both from private design time and playtesting.

      My comments here are certainly overwhelmingly negative, which is never intended as an insult or derision or anything of that sort. Rather, as someone who has been designing cards for his game for 5+ years at this point, I've rejected nearly every idea I've ever had. "The file" for my game has about 400 active cards, and the rejected pile has over 12,000, each corresponding to some little piece of paper I sleeved and played either by myself or with others and concluded either wasn't quite right or was totally wrong, or etc etc. I regret none of that, experimentation and failure are a huge part of design. Many of those were incremental improvements.

      But all of them also took time and work to cut and play. Some (thankfully few) ruined whole playtests. Every time I look at a card and say "Oh wait, that won't work because X" is a substantial savings.

      Of course, when I realize my ideas won't work for whatever reason, if I think there is some seed there, then I save them in my (now enormous) slush file for future inspiration.

      PS: Thanks to Extra Credits for teaching me the phrase "Fail Faster," it very well encapsulates my design philosophy. You can look up their episode on it if you want to see their take on it.

    3. Absolutely. Make no mistake that I'm grateful for everyone pointing out the issues. That's a critical step.

      In the same way I don't take those observations as an attack on me, please don't take me debating those issues as an attack on you. If you get feedback and you don't understand 100% what the person meant and why they said it, you have failed to learn and grow. Which is why even when I know how the conversation will end, I prompt for more details. To fully understand exactly where the idea falls apart. With that information, and only with that information, can I find a solution. So thank you for illustrating exactly why putting a card into the library wouldn't work.

      At the same time, no one will ever be as strong an advocate for an idea as its designer. If the designer scraps it immediately at the first piece of critical feedback, the idea will die then and there. If all designers did that, no idea would ever see print. We have to carry our idea until it's shown that no version of it is worthwhile. And again, if you abandon an idea without understanding why it was a lost cause, you won't have learned what you need to to make your next idea that much more seaworthy.

      In particular, you have to watch out for the people don't see the potential of your idea past its flaws. Again, it's very easy to find technical issues with any idea. But technical issues are usually solveable; If you don't see the value of the idea, you have no reason to look beyond those first-level issues to see if there are bigger issues that are deal-breakers.

      So when I see "you can't put a DFC in your library," that's criticism I can only address literally and directly. It tells me nothing of the greater idea's potential at all. In contrast, "you can't put a DFC in your library, but" tells me that the speaker sees the same potential and wants to get past the surface-level obstacles. And "you don't want to do DFC spells at all because" gives me a reason not to bother figuring out the little details since there's a deeper, more fundamental issue with the idea.

      Don't give up on idea for superficial reasons. Give up on them for fundamental reasons. But don't do either until you understand those reasons.

    4. 701.25a. Only permanents represented by double-faced cards can transform. (See rule 711, "Double-Faced Cards.") If a spell or ability instructs a player to transform any permanent that isn't represented by a double-faced card, nothing happens.

      This stops the mechanic from working if I read it right. Since only permanents can transform. If addendums were made to the rules to let instants and sorceries transform than you could keep the mechanic. Also, since whenever a transformed card is put into a nonplay zone, it presents its front face, you would have to change that rule for these cards to be able to go to exile with their rear face. You could make this mechanic like suspend, ie

      Empirical (When this spell resolves, you may exile it, then transform it. If you do, at the beginning of your next upkeep you may play that card without paying its mana cost. Skip your draw step.)

      Since the rear face of a df card is supposed to have no mana cost, this would line up with current cards. It also is easier to spot which face you are on, and the only way to cast the card is through the empirical replacement effect. Now that execution is quite wordy, so I think we are departing the realm of common-able cards but you can make it work.

    5. example

      Shocking Experiment R
      Deal 2 damage to target creature or player.
      Empirical (When this spell resolves, you may exile it and then transform it. If you do, At the beginning of your next upkeep, cast it without paying its mana cost and skip your draw step.)
      Enlightening Result
      Deal three damage to target creature or player.

    6. We can add and change rules, of course, we just want to make sure we do so mindfully and in the spirit they were intended.

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  6. I'm not sure that losing a draw step is really worth it for most of these. I'd rather see something simpler.

    Shocking Experiment 2R
    Enchantment (U)
    When Shocking Experiment enters the battlefield, deal 1 damage to target creature or player.
    R, Sacrifice Shocking Experiment: Deal 3 damage to target creature or player.

    or if you really were married to the "skip a draw" effect and wanted it to be cheaper:

    Shocking Words R
    Enchantment (U)
    When Shocking Words enters the battlefield, deal 2 damage to target creature or player.
    R, Sacrifice Shocking Words: The next time you would draw a card this turn, Shocking Words deals 3 damage to target creature or player instead..

    If you really wanted it to be a double faced card, I'd have it just return to its owner's hand automatically. Putting it on top of the deck is just asking for trouble rule wise, and prone to feel bad moments where players skip draw steps where they actually needed land and then they don't know how they lost.

    1. Those are much simpler and more printable. They also don't have nearly the same flavor/impact. Right? I think this was just an idea that turns out not to be worthwhile. I appreciate everyone's analysis and alternate ideas.

  7. cards should stay in the same face orientation in all zones as much as possible. this mechanic doesnt justify flipflopping so much.

    so we assume the card stays face up in all zones all the time. whenever it moves between zones it turns face up. we can allow one specific condition for a very brief moment, when it's cast with a keyword ability.

    say 'Flashforward' (you may cast it from your graveyard and transformed for this cost. Then exile it.)

    Rulings: it goes to graveyard face up. It is exiled face up. Only time it is face down is on the stack if it's cast with flashforward.

  8. i mean normal face orientation in all zones so it doesnt stand out from other cards. so in library face down and hidden like others. in hand face up and hidden like others.