Thursday, May 14, 2015

CCDD 051415—Eternal Faun

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/14/2015 - Eternal Faun wonders if red can do recursion on a creature other than a phoenix. Red isn't really about recursion or flying, but it makes exceptions for firebirds and dragons.

But that's a very one-sided perspective. Consider that Magic doesn't need the phoenix to satisfy players' flavor requirements like it needs dragons. Do we see them so often purely for nostalgia's sake? Or do these recursive red birds serve a functional purpose? And if they weren't the only example of red creature recursion, they wouldn't be exceptions at all—Is that a space red can embrace?


  1. The Phoenix is an interesting thing in red, and I'm gonna talk about that for a bit before I move onto talking about this card.

    I think that Phoenixes, as they have been in Magic, are mostly to satisfy a flavor requirement.

    Historically, most Phoenixes printed have not been really 'red' at all. They've been using un-red technology to achieve a very red flavor, but the way they are 'reborn' doesn't feel red at all. This is why I argue that they are purely for flavor, and not meant to represent red design space - there is nothing red, philosophically or mechanically, about their means of reanimation. These embody a sense of 'reanimation' that red would never get access to. For example, Phoenixes that return themselves to your hand let you keep the Phoenix in hand, waiting for the right moment - that doesn't feel very red at all!

    Of the 11 Phoenixes in Modern, this 'non-red' category includes Ashcloud Phoenix, Firewing Phoenix, Magma Phoenix, Shard Phoenix, Worldheart Phoenix. Notice that almost every single one of them includes some very red effects, to make them feel more red.

    Then we have the category of Phoenixes that achieve their reanimation in a red way. For example, Chandra's Phoenix is reanimated through a very red trigger. This category also includes Skarrgan Firebird, Kuldotha Phoenix, Flame-Wreathed Phoenix, Flamewake Phoenix.

    There is a third category of Phoenixes that truly embody red, in my opinion - and this category is small. Red's 'gimmick' is that it is short-sighted, impulsive, and loves to seize the moment - and phoenixes can really represent that, if done correctly. If the phoenix's rebirth is done in the moment, a use-it-or-lose-it opportunity, then that feels very red - or if it's short-sighted, that also is very red. In fact, it feels the most fitting to the true myth of the Phoenix - they don't live forever, they live a long line of fleeting and short lives, each starting and ending in a blaze. The Phoenix is inherently a fleeting, ephemeral creature - a very red creature. Capturing that evanescent experience is exactly what red was born to do, and the "use-it-or-lose-it" and "short-sighted opportunity" paths are the best ways to do so in Magic.

    I would argue that there are only two Phoenix in all of modern Magic that actually feel red: Skarrgan Firebird ("use-it-or-lose-it") and Molten Firebird ("short-sighted opportunity"). There is a REASON that Firebird was colorshifted.

    As you can see, I've been thinking a lot about phoenixes in red, since Reborn Phoenix was posted by Jules a bit ago. And basically, I think phoenixes have historically been tricky to represent in red, because Magic has stuck to a weird bleed for Phoenixes, out of nostalgia or necessity or a lack of willingness to experiment with it, instead deciding to focus their resources elsewhere. But though it 'worked', it never was red at all. They stopped too soon - there is a lot of design space for truly red Phoenixes that has been untouched out of this complacent design.

    Eternal Faun is actually exactly the Phoenix ability that I was thinking about when I saw Reborn Phoenix. (Well, not exactly - my wording was "you may cast it again immediately", but...)

    1. Now, to answer the questions you posed - I think the current method of doing Phoenixes is not red at all, and can only be done on a Phoenix card with other effects on the card justifying it. But I think there IS a way to capture Phoenixes with purely-red flavor and mechanics, and that way could - and should - be extended to other red cards.

      There are other forms of red reanimation beyond just Eternal Faun and Reborn Phoenix as well. One of the most obvious has already been done: Feldon of the Third Path is the first official red card to use Postmortem Lunge technology, which I've been advocating to be fully red for a long time.

      I think that red should totally embrace any form of 'temporary' mechanic it can find, and I think this is the next frontier of red's design space.

      TL;DR: Phoenixes have historically been jury-rigged non-red mechanics onto red-creatures, purely to satisfy flavor requirements. We seem them out of player expectation, they don't really represent red mechanically or serve a functional purpose. But red can get creature recursion, we just see it rarely, if at all. And red should totally embrace that design space.

    2. How did you write all that so fast?

    3. I mean, if it were nonsense, sure, but...

    4. Maybe he had a phoenix rant all prepared to post elsewhere :)

      Seriously, yes, excellent points.

    5. I've always been a fast writer. You should hear me talk in person. :P

      Thank you both for the kind words.

  2. Seems like this would play identically to "{R}{R}: Regenerate" in most cases, right?

    1. It would, but I love the idea of "cast it immediately". It makes it feel super-red, and it is fun with things like Pandemonium and other type effects.

      Just as Red is "attacks if able" and Black "can't block", I think it's okay to have some functionally identical stuff that's worded differently.

      Also, this is less complex than regenerate. Might be an awesome replacement keyword for it.

  3. how immediate is immediate? does passing priority mean not immediate? can you respond to the trigger and not lose the sense of immediate? do we check for game states?

  4. Is "cast immediately" meant to be a new rule for handling this kind of card? Or is it for effect/making the card super red? i.e. could it be worded something like "When Eternal Faun dies, you may cast it. (You still pay its costs. Do this immediately or not at all.)"?

  5. 'Immediate' was intended for clarity but is redundant.