Monday, May 25, 2015

Zeffrikar Exploratory Design Part 3: A Lack of Color Here

There are a few more mechanical areas that we need to explore before we start selecting keywords for the final count. Today I'm tackling some land mechanics for the set to dabble in, and taking a look at the needs and wants of the inscrutable Eldrazi.

6: Land Matters

Let's flog this dead horse a little more: By virtue of being the sequel to Zendikar, Zeffrikar is going to have to have some level of "lands-matter" even if it's not the central defining mechanic. I came up with a couple of mechanics I see potential for.

Manabond is an action word that lets you put the land equivalent of a gold token onto the battlefield. This can synergize well with landfall and inevitable land-type matters cards, as well as set you up to cast a high-cost Eldrazi spell down the line. It could be Islandbond or Forestbond, etc, which may save a line of reminder text.

Excavate is my adventure mechanic for lands. Basically, every land you control can be super-tapped once for the remainder of the game. As with poison, the set isn't going to have ways for you to remove the counter.

It can be very strategic as to when you time your excavations.

And it can be used as a kicker-type of mechanic as well.

And we can trigger off of it happening.

I'll be honest - Excavate is, in my mind, this set's landfall. It hits the adventure trope, it hits the land mechanic, it's super-flexible. My major critique is the amount of bookkeeping it requires, with tracking which lands (via counters) have and have not been excavated yet. That aside, I think this is a strong mechanic for this set, and one I'm going to be pushing hard. Please offer as much critique as you can for this mechanic in particular in the comments.

7: Eldrazi/Colorless Matters

The last major group of mechanics I'm developing is for the Eldrazi. Eldrazi titans are going to require two mechanics at the very least. First, they are going to need a way to cast them cheaper than manacost.

I'm not sure if this should be keyworded or not. Eldrazi are based off of lovecraftian monsters, which are notorious for causing insanity. I figured a mechanic that disrupted your hand or library is the first way to go.

It would also be a thematically appropriate way to bring back Madness.

We could also revisit "offering" as a way to evoke the eldrazi spawn if we're not actually utilizing the adorable little tokens in this set.

The second thing that the Eldrazi need is a replacement for Annihilator. Annihilator was used to motivate players to attack with their giant monstrosities, but it is a terrifically unfun mechanic to be on the wrong side of, and nearly impossible to come back from.

Mindnihilator does a few things for us. First, it incentivizes you to attack without completely shutting your opponent out of the rest of the game. Secondly, it again plays into the idea that encountering the horrorterrors traumatizes the mind. On top of that, milling has a long history being mechanically rooted in colorless (artifact) cards, so it makes a nice unifying mechanic for the colorless tribe.

Speaking of which, the last component that the Eldrazi should have would be a colorless-matters aspect. This will help cement their factional identity, and provide some nice cross-block synergy with morph cards from the previous blocks.

Red has a history with turning itself colorless, and blue is the color that messes with something's color, so that could be a UR archetype. As a nice bonus, the Kor are going to want some amount of equipment matters, and this may set up the RW archetype to play around in as well.


That's it for the first wave of mechanic design. For the next step I'm going to do the following:

  1. Review comments on all the Zeffrikar material so far, possibly iterate mechanics
  2. Mine the archives of Suvnica and Tesla to see if any mechanics jump out that make sense for this set
  3. Come up with my tentative list of mechanics
  4. Make design skeleton
  5. Make ALL the commons!
If you want to pitch a mechanic, you can do it in the comments of any of the Zeffrikar pieces so far (Handy index link is on the sidebar), including this one. As a reminder, mechanics should fall into one of three broad categories here:

  • Invokes adventure (traps, quests, exploration, against-the-odds)
  • Land-matters 
  • Eldrazi (reducing cost, tribal mechanical unity, colorless matters)
If you ever want to talk through ideas, hit me up on twitter.



  1. Haven't looked at the Eldrazi stuff yet, but the Manabond/Excavate stuff.

    Firstly, Excavate, unlike Landfall, is terribly parasitic.

    Secondly, Manabond is just Gold, but more fiddly and less effective; each bond can produce any colour of mana but you have to specify the colour in advance (annoying) and then keep track of different kinds (annoying).

    My suggestion: combine the two. For example,

    "Counter target spell. Manabond. (To manabond, put a manabond token on a land you control. Whenever a player taps a land for mana, for each manabond token on that land, that player adds one mana to his or her mana pool of any type that land can produce/produced.)"

    This is still a keyword you can reference if you want, but it also means that you can have a more modular reference for your set: tokens on lands (such as charge tokens on previous lands) or whenever a land adds mana to your mana pool. I can imagine something like "Excavate — Whenever a source you control adds more than one mana to your mana pool, [effect]."

    There is a question over which is more intuitive/fun; manabonds producing anything the land could produce or, like Mana Flare, only producing mana of the kind you chose to produce.

    Finally, it also means things like one-drop manabond spells can fix your mana without you having to run extra lands and could be an interesting tool for aggro.

    The one concern would be anything that untaps lands, as it can make an engine, but in older formats this would be a hefty problem, but I think in a standard/block environment, easily controlled.

    Any thoughts?

    1. The more I think about it, I like the idea of these manabond tokens. It's seems an elegant way of making a land-cantrip without having to shuffle or bring new land cards or fiddle with tokens. Plus, you can do things with Proliferate and Vorel of the Hull Clade to make it really cool.

      I like the idea of;

      Manabond [G]
      Manabond. (To manabond, put a manabond token on a land you control. Whenever a player taps a land for mana, for each manabond token on that land, that player adds one additional mana to his or her mana pool of the type that land produced.)

      I think this could be an interesting card.

    2. It'll be hard to balance a keyword that's sometimes better than Rampant Growth. That said, this is more fun than excavate and simpler than gold-with-land-type.

    3. Excavate is the opposite of parasitic. It doesn't require you to play more cards with the mechanic on them; it actually rewards you for playing less of them.

    4. I don't think that permanently letting lands produce more and more mana is a balanceable mechanic.

      Small iteration on manabond - skip the landtype entirely, and let it just do a one-shot single colorless mana bump, like a spawn:

      Manabond (put a land token onto the battlefield with "T, Sac: Add 1 to your mana pool")

  2. I don't think you explained what "excavate" actually does. "Put a counter on a land you control..." that does what?

    That said, I generally dislike putting counters on lands on principle, as it makes it very difficult to stack your lands for space-saving purposes, something that is exacerbated by being in the same set that expects you to try to hardcast 10-drops.

    1. This is my biggest concern. I still remember getting yelled at for proposing charge counter on lands in the GDS2. If we're going to be putting counters on lands, they need to matter a lot, and make the game more fun.

    2. Doing nothing is a big problem. All my solutions I'm coming up with ramp up the parasitism in a big way. My current favorite take (and I haven't read the most recent batch of comments, so this may have been suggested already) is to put excavate only on permanents, always excavate in multiples and always optional, and always allow excavate cards to trigger off of each other. Examples because my sentence structure skills are in sad shape today:

      Excavating Anthem 1WW
      When ~ ETB, you may Excavate 2.
      Whenever you excavate, creatures you control get +1/+1 until EoT.

      Excavating Crab 2U
      Creature - Crab
      When ~ ETB, you may excavate 4.
      Whenever you excavate, target player puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard.


      Like I said, it ramps up the parasitic factor, but for better effect.

    3. What if the goal is not to minimize or maximize your excavations, but to time them?

      Excavating Bear 1G
      2/2 Bear
      When ~ ETB, you may Excavate 1.
      Whenever you excavate, target creature gets +2/+2 until EOT. If all your lands are excavated, all creatures you control get +2/+2 until EOT instead.

      Excavatable Land
      Land (rare)
      Whenever you excavate, Add {1} to your mana pool. If all your lands are excavated, add one mana of any color to your mana pool instead.
      {T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.

  3. Echoing the comments, I'm really not into Excavate. If I play a land each turn and a spell each turn (which is pretty typical), I can have to Excavate for every one and it is no worry at all. Excavate is not a real cost. The times it will most likely be relevant are when a player is mana-screwed, and that is not the player I want to hose.

    Put a different way, a typical limited deck plays 17 lands and 23 spells (though increasingly this is shifting to 18/22). If even 6 cards in your deck don't excavate, this is a non-cost.

    In bigger formats, the problem gets worse. Your burn spell, for example, will see play in Legacy burn decks, as will any excavate card that pushes the threshold of power. In those formats, even more, it is a non-cost.

    I experimented at some point (in another game) with a mechanic very similar to this. With that mechanic you flipped the land face down and it (basically) tapped for colorless (it wasn't a creature). That mechanic didn't survive mostly due to not being interesting enough. In this particular case, it was mostly being used to limit the number of activations on an activated ability.

    Sorry there wasn't more to be positive about, but good luck!

    1. It seems like you're assuming every card will only require to excavate one land, Tommy. And that you're drawing lands, excavate spells and non-excavate spells in even proportion.

      I do think you raise a good point about Constructed where players can run a single playset of excavate cards to negate the drawback.

    2. In addition to responses to concerns in earlier comments, I want to stress: Not every mechanic is designed for constructed, not every mechanic is designed for limited.

    3. I used limited as an example. If you do the numbers with constructed decks it isn't any different.

      Also, though I don't necessarily object on moral grounds, I'm not sure WOTC agrees that not every mechanic is designed for limited.

    4. I forget which episode number specifically, but in his recent Innistrad cards podcasts, regarding one of the curses, maro flat out said not every mechanic is designed for limited.

      Limited is a major focus of design, but it doesn't guide every design decision.

    5. Again, as I said, I don't disagree on principle. But what was the last mechanic that wasn't designed for limited?

      If by mechanic you include things like Hideaway and Sweep, sure, but those are barely mechanics, occurring on only five cards, and even those were last in Lorwyn to my memory.

      The closest example since NWO I can come up with, and I consider it a huge stretch, is the gods from Theros (which primarily used devotion, which certainly mattered in limited, but used it in a consistent way across 15 cards, which is almost bordering into what could be called its own mechanic.)

    6. It's a fair point. I suspect that design puts a lot more limited-irrelevant mechanics in an early version of a file than we see at the end.

  4. Eldrazi offering is more restricting than Eldrazi spawn and is a non-bo with Eldrazi spawn (since they have no mana cost).

    I believe the spawn is a lock for this or any appearance of the Eldrazi. Unless you plan on exploring another route for Eldrazi to meet the requisite as-fan, that is.

    Mindnihilate is an interesting take. Could you eliminate the variable like in wither or infect:

    Mindrake (this creature deals damage to players in the form of putting that many cards from the top of his or her library into the graveyard.)

    As for excavate: it's been discussed (by either Maro, Sam Stoddard, or both) that counters on lands have been explored but deemed too fiddly. Hand-in-hand with NWO is limiting overall board complexity. Lands (for the most part) are lands. That means players are accustomed to ignoring them when. Asking them to rethink this, IMO, is a bigger deal than most would give it credit for. Don't get me wrong: it's possible and I'm all for you experimenting. The ends must be something truley special to justify the means.

    As a personal point of interest: I loved allies. I hope you at least try to preserve their original functionality and expand it, rather than toss it out in favor of something shiny for the same of "new-ness".

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Also, I forgot to mention, I know that the Eldrazi are a big splashy tribal theme, but I would consider the relationship of the Theros gods to minotaurs and the DTK dragons to warriors as a sign.

      The Eldrazi are you hook/theme. What Zendikari tribal sub theme would fit this dichotomy better than allies?

    2. I'm still up in the air re: allies. There's a lot of love out there for them, but I don't want every mechanic in the set to be a rehash of Zendikar 1.0, and traps and quests serve the Adventure theme better than allies.

  5. Continuing with some of the Eldrazi mechanics:

    I personally hate the mechanic of "discard your hand to go all in on a super early 8/7 and hope it gets there." This is the kind of thing they are always trying to weed out of Modern because it leads to such unsatisfying games. Also particularly frustrating for both players on MTGO because een if it works and you win two games real fast, you have to wait for the other rounds to finish. Players like their cards (see: Odyssey).

    Madness I think will find its home again some day. It is tricky because as noted above, players like their cards, so it is difficult to find mechanics which both play well and play well with madness. (Players don't even particularly like Spellshapers!)

    Mindannhilator is my favorite idea from the whole post, but it has some serious problems. The first is that it has been placed on a 12/12, so the opponent is going to die to that really fast, unless they are chumping every turn. If all the Eldrazi have this mechanic, it mkaes it basically impossible to print an Eldrazi with Trample, which seems like it would be shameful. Attacking on two different axes is always weird, and is especially so in this particular case.

    The other issue is that if there are all these "reshuffle your graveyard" cards running around (like Kozilek himself), I really don't want to be milling my opponent. I actually think this is pretty easy to fix, just make Mindannhilator exile the cards instead of discard them.

    I don't love anything you've written for the Eldrazi as it is, but I do like the idea of tying the Lovecraftian insanity brought on by these huge monsters to milling. I think that has some potential!

    1. I really like Mindnihillator and agree that exiling the cards feels even more sanity-breaking while avoiding Eldrazi shuffle triggers. I like it too as a good limited ending mechanic on bombs - which is what Eldrazi should be IMO.

    2. Yeah. Going all-in and casting Emrakul's Handeater on turn 2 and either winning or losing based on your opponent being able to remove it in three turns seems bad.

      I was excited at the flavor there, and the prospect of comboing with madness for double flavor, but discarding Ulamog's Boon and casting it for {2} ends up costing more than the Handeater started at.

      I could totally see Eldrazi getting "~ deals damage to players in the form of exiling cards from the top of their library." When we've explored that briefly before, the big benefit is that you can make much bigger creatures—perfect for Eldrazi world. (Though perhaps better used on the things that fight the Eldrazi?)

    3. I don't want milling replacing giant p/t if at all possible. Of the original Eldrazi, MaRo has said that Annihilator was put there to encourage attacking with them rather than just having them sit back defensively. Mindnihilator is there to encourage attacking the way annihilator originally did without the incredible oppression. I want the incentive to attack, but I don't want milling to be the Eldrazi's win-con the way poison was the phyrexian's.

    4. hm, I see what you mean Zefferal. That does make sense. Alright, well, I don't think milling is providing sufficient incentive to attack either, since it operates on a completely different vector.

      What could we do that doesn't feel oppressive, but still rewards you for attacking? Hm...

    5. At EOT, if ~ didn't attack, tap it. It deals its power in damage to you.

      musssst attaaack

    6. Random thoughts:

      Awestrike (Whenever this creature attacks, target creature defending player controls becomes a colorless creature with base power and toughness 0/1 and loses all abilities for as long as this creature is on the battlefield.)

      This represents creatures just being reduced into gibbering insane people, unable to comprehend the sight of the Eldrazi. So they just become ineffectual.

      Pressure (Whenever this creature attacks, tap target creature defending player controls. That creature doesn't untap for as long as this creature is on the battlefield.)

      Another mechanical interpretation of the same flavor. Stealing the name from the Pokemon ability. :P

      Terrify (Whenever this creature attacks, each creature your opponent controls gets -1/-0 until end of turn.)

      "Resistance is futile." Each time an Eldrazi attacks, it's so demoralizing that they lose some of their power.

      Terrify Version 2 (Whenever this creature attacks, target creature gets -X/-0, where X is this creature's power.)

      A targeted version of the same flavor. This is a little less oppressive, since it only removes one creature from the equation instead of potentially multiple.

      Supermassive (This creature can't be blocked unless all creatures defending player controls block it. )

      Yikes. I don't think this one is a good idea, since it's broken in multiples, but I included it because I had the idea and I might as well write it down. I was trying to capture the flavor of "this is on a completely different level than you'.

      Supermassive Version 2 (This creature can't be blocked unless the total power of all creatures defending player controls is equal to or greater than this creature's power.)

      Another variant, this time not wrecked in multiples. Your opponent must have an army before they can hope to fight you.

      Extraplanar (This creature can't be destroyed or damaged except by combat damage.)

      A weird variant of indestructible. You HAVE to kill this creature in combat. This also means we don't have to warp the format to make the removal ineffective against the Eldrazi - they just can't be affected by the removal at all. I'm not so sure this one is a good idea, but again I include it. This is capturing the flavor of "Match me or you can do nothing".

    7. I am aware that Extraplanar doesn't reward attacking, by the way. (In fact it kinda does the opposite... woops...) I included it as a nice bonus.

    8. Trample definitely works, but also isn't a new exciting mechanic. If push comes to shove, we can use Trample to accentuate the 'attacking' theme, and have the Eldrazi each have a unique 'Eldrazi-feeling' effect.

    9. Good brainstorm Inanimate! While Supermassive (v2) is similar to trample it does readbetter, and actually is a bit more powerful.

    10. How often does supermassive (2) just translate into annihilator though? Either I don't block and lose on the next swing, or I block all in without enough to take down your monster yet and lose in two swings? It's not a mechanic you can hope to come back from.

    11. Yeah zefferal, this was just a brainstorm. I will freely admit that both the Supermassives aren't very good. But they might get us on a good track.

  6. I like Ghostflame a lot, especially in R/U and maybe White for the reasons you stated. Mindnihlator is neat as an attack trigger. You still get the sense of impending doom as your library melts as you did against Annihilator, but you have more of a chance to fight it. I think it should stay an attack trigger and not a damage trigger, so that it hits even while being chump blocked.

    Excavate and Manabond need some iteration I think. I'm not against the excavate counters so much-- it's relatively painless to just sort lands into two piles, one excavated and one not. But it doesn't really do anything. Maybe it could 'bleach' the land, making it only produce colorless, but colorscrewing yourself sounds unfun.

    Manabond is neat, but I wish they were just Eldrazi Spawn. My take on the name is something that charges up a land:

    Generic Spell 1U
    Draw a card
    Manabond (Then exile this bound to target land. That land gains 'T: Add 2 to your mana pool.)

    1. I really dig your iteration of manabond! That's really cool, and ties the 'land' theme of Zendikar and the 'colorless ramp' theme of Eldrazi together perfectly. Nice job!

    2. One note is that this version IS permanent ramp. So it'll be tougher to balance appropriately. Also, exiling something connected to a permanent is already tricky, but when it's a land the organization becomes even trickier.

      Still, if those two issues can be solved, I think this is onto something great!

    3. What if it's the Eldrazi that are bleaching the land? Sucking the color out of the world?

      Bunnicula {9}
      Creature-Eldrazi (cmn)
      Bleach 1 (Whenever ~ attacks, defending player puts a bleached token on a land he or she controls without one. It loses all abilities and gains "{T}: Add {2} to your mana pool.")

      A little wordy, but I like how it helps the other player ramp into their own eldrazi.

    4. Jay: That's the only other thing I think Eldrazi could possibly get in the set - "bleaching". The reason I don't think it'll happen is that colorscrewing your opponent isn't fun for anyone.

    5. The hope is that Eldrazi can't come out early enough to bleach a player who's already having mana trouble (Bunnicula would have to hit a player stuck on five lands five times before he can't cast colored spells—and he could still play a new land to do it that turn). Whether it's possible to ensure that often enough I'm not so sure.

      Eldrazi could bleach their controllers.

    6. It's not "can't cast at all" - it's "can't cast a color". If I have four islands and one swamp, I wonder which land you're gonna bleach?

    7. That's why I let the decision up the defender, like annihilator.

    8. Ohhh, I didn't see that. Sorry!

  7. Manabond is an interesting and weird idea, but it's way too fiddly and just not interesting enough. Eldrazi Spawn can attack, block, be pumped, sacrificed, etc. etc. etc. What can this land token do? In comparison, almost nothing. Especially since landfall isn't even in your set.

    I really like the idea of a mechanic in Zeffrikar that creates land-based ramp, but I don't think manabond is the way to do it. I would recommend you check out James Bartolotti's manabond, it looks like some nice progress on your mechanic.

    Excavate should probably be called "explore" or "survey" or something, to get a better flavor. You can only really 'explore' a land once, you know? When I hear 'excavate', I think 'this land is destroyed' or 'this land loses all of its resources'. :P

    Excavate is a fascinating idea, but it's essentially just a way more parasitic version of ruincast. I like the idea of the number of your lands being a 'limiter' for spells, but you have to have other consequences besides just that. Ruincast achieves that by pushing you towards color screw, and by excavating more than just once per spell, so it really adds up. Excavate, in comparison, is only a punishment if you're playing other excavate cards. In 99% of decks in Magic, it's not a price at all.

    I truly think Excavate is onto something good - perhaps even better than Ruincast - but it's not quite there yet.

    Handeater / Madness will not happen. Handeater is just like an even worse version of Devour - in that, if it fails, you just lost SOOOO much card advantage - and Madness is just too fiddly and weird to make a comeback, in my opinion (and that saddens me too).

    I've been pushing for a mechanic like Mindnihillator for the Eldrazi. I think the next time we see them, they will DEFINITELY be milling cards. It just makes too much sense! Milling is already one of the biggest and coolest things colorless can do - and in large enough quantities, it can be a serious force. And it represents a completely 'different vector of attack', something you can't defend against at all! How cool!

    Mindnihillator is interesting, but I don't think it provides enough interaction. There was a mechanic proposed by Guesswork - another attempt at a "millstrike" mechanic or whatever you want to call it - and I think he nailed it, in terms of how a milling mechanic should work. Here it is:

    Derange (This assigns combat damage to players equal to its power plus its toughness. The damage is dealt in the form of cards exiled from the top of that player's library.)

    This is certainly interesting, as it lets these creatures have more defensive bodies yet still want to go on the attack. This means that the Derange playstyle can have a defensive suite of creatures to help them stall towards an Eldrazi, and then suddenly switch into attacking mode, overwhelming the opponent. And on the giant bodies of Eldrazi, they have the potential to do some serious damage if left unblocked! But they're attacking on an entirely different plane of existence, which would be really cool.

    In addition, since it exiles rather than sends to graveyard, they can keep the reanimator clause without being able to stop this attack. A nice bonus.

    Offering could work if it was brought back in a revised fashion - strike out the instant stuff, strike out the tribal stuff, and just make it sacrifice any creature.

    Ghostflame could work - with a different name, such as 'Unfathomable' or something - but I don't think we'll be seeing it as a keyword.

    1. ruincast for reference:
      Ruincast 2 (You may ruin two nonruined basic lands you control as you cast this spell. Ruined lands produce colorless mana instead of any other type.)

  8. I'll disagree with most of the comments so far: I'm a fan of Excavate. First of all, it's the reverse of parasitic: you actually want to avoid playing too many Excavate cards since they will use up the excavation resource (similar to the way Delve works in Tarkir block). Cards like Disruptive Archaeologist push you the other way, which makes me think that's not so much the way to go.

    To make the mechanic work better, I think you can do a couple of things. First, you can change the name to make it something more flavorful and Zendikar-appropriate. Explore is a good idea (except that it already has a different in-game connotation), or you could have the counters represent something like population (resettling wild parts of Zendikar) or even hedrons (putting them up to resist the Eldrazi).

    Second, think about how you want excavate to matter, choose 1 or 2 versions, and stick with them. Personally I think the 'additional cost' version will be feel-bad; I'd prefer phrasing excavate as a kicker-style cost (perhaps explicitly in the keyword), and requiring multiple excavations per kick so that excavation feels more like a resource. Another route you could take would be to make excavation a cost on repeatable activated abilities.

    Here's one idea I had for how the excavate mechanic might be used:

    Elvish Ancient G
    Creature- Elf Druid (Uncommon)
    Excavate 3 (As an additional cost to cast CARDNAME, you may put excavation counters on 3 lands you control with no excavation counters on them.)
    T: Add G to your mana pool.
    If CARDNAME was excavated, it enters the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters on it.

    1. Just because a mechanic is anti-linear doesn't mean it isn't parasitic.

      Lets get some terminology defined

      Parasitic means it is insular and only works in the context of itself or a small subset. (Note that parasitic != bad)

      A linear mechanic is something like Affinity, Morph or Slivers that has a narrow but focused synergy and encourages you to play more of a particular thing.

      A modular mechanic is something open ended that can be added without much cost, a great example is equipment.

      Delve as you mentioned is an example of an anti-linear mechanic as is actually fights against itself, the more delve you have the less graveyard you have to take advantage of that.
      Note that a anti-linear mechanic can be modular as well.

      However delve is not a parasitic mechanic as a huge variety of cards use the graveyard as well as things dying.

      Excavate of the other hand is a parasitic anti-linear mechanic because of how the only thing that excavate is interact with itself AND it fights itself.

      Now this is fine but we need to understand what makes some parasitic mechanics ok and other bad. This is interaction.

      Infect is a parasitic mechanic in that poison counters can nearly never be interacted with outside of proliferate. Its also linear in that more poison means your not attacking on different angles.
      But the crux of what makes infect a good parasitic design compared to excavate is that it interacts both with combat and with a huge variety of cards like equipment, combat trick etc. This means that interaction is inbuilt which is simply not true of excavate. Compare Splice into Arcane for a similar situation in which the mechanic is parasitic AND uninteractive.

      TLDR: Parasitic and Linear are not opposites. I define anti-linear. Parasitism is ok if its interactive. Excavate is currently not interactive.

    2. Excavate 3 certainly addresses some of my concerns about the original proposal. A much smaller number of Exacavate cards are needed for it to matter.

      That said, none of the proposed designs have sold me on the idea that this mechanic has value. The fact that you can so easily play one or two cards with the mechanic at literally no cost is still a serious problem.

      Note: That is not true of Delve, which has a lot of tension. Many of the same decks that play Delve cards also play cards that interact with the graveyard in other ways, so you are actually mining a real resource. There is no real cost to excavating other than that you can't Excavate as much.

    3. By your own definition of parasitic, Reuben, I don't see how excavate is parasitic. Otherwise, I agree entirely.

    4. Jay: The "work" that we're expecting Excavate to do is to be a mechanic that limits how many times it is used. However, outside of this set, there is no practical limitation since nothing else Excavates. Thus, it is not "working" except in tandem with other cards in the set.

      It's weird to wrap your head around a parasitic drawback mechanic, but I think that's what he meant?

    5. That's something I had never considered-- a mechanic being parasitic in that nothing outside its own block interacted negatively with it. But I think I see the point. Any Modern deck could run 2-3 of a suitable Excavate card that was 'pushed' for Zeffrikar's Standard environment (e.g. Elvish Ancient in Jund / Abzan decks) with tons of upside and very little downside. Which is not the intent of the mechanic at all.

    6. Note: this is the same reason they didn't print the Dual land that gave you a poison counter when you tapped it.

  9. Read through the Eldrazi — I agree, you want two mechanics; one that represents the sheer destructive nature of the Eldrazi, and one that makes them cheaper to play.

    Here's a thought:

    How about Evoke?

    Kozilek's Butcher [9]
    Creature — Eldrazi
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn.
    Evoke [3]

    1. Interesting take! Unfortunately, there's the problem that you can't have (reasonably) cheap costs for non-colorless effects. For example, as is, the card you presented is a color pie violation far worse than Dismember.

    2. How about?

      Kozilek's Butcher {9}
      Creature — Eldrazi
      When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn.
      Evoke {1}{B}{B}

    3. Jay, after I wrote my response, I thought about exactly that same design. It should be fine in a vacuum, but I feel Eldrazi are too tied to colorless for it to work.

    4. Whoa. That's actually pretty interesting, and something I could see being a bridge between the colorless Eldrazi titans and the colored Eldrazi Drones. What would we call these, though? "Soldier" and "Scout" are already taken as normal-creatures creature types. Worker?

    5. They could just be a new form of Drone.

  10. I agree that Excavation needs work, particuarly in the cost reduction aspect. The fact that Excavation Bolt appears to be trading an excavation counter for 2-3 mana shaved off its mana cost is scary! It'll probably bear out that the ratio should be two excavation counters for every 1 mana reduced from the mana cost.

    I like the idea of the excavation counters actually doing something too, and James Bartolotti's idea of bleaching the land's mana production is interesting. If you went that way you could even avoid the excavation counters and include a land token in the set. Which land? Well, consider this:

    Excavation Bolt (COM)
    As an additional cost to cast Excavation Bolt, hedronform two Mountains. (Sacrifice two Mountains and put two colorless Hedron land tokens onto the battlefield. They have "T: Add 1 to your mana pool.")
    Excavation Bolt deals 4 damage to target creature or player.

    And the land token:

    Land - Hedron
    T: Add 1 to your mana pool.

    But here's the problem. This suddenly isn't an "Adventure" mechanic. It's a "Battle the Eldrazi" mechanic. Weirder still, a mechanic that slowly turns your manabase colorless would push you into playing Eldrazi with it. Unless the Hedrons are tied to Zendakari defense some other way. Or colored spells reward you for hedronforming.

    Hedron Gnarlid (COM)
    Creature - Beast
    Hedron Gnarlid gets +1/+1 for each Hedron you control.

    All this is not to say that the mana reduction use of Excavation is the way to go. Consider my Excavation Bolt rework. The fact that it might be unplayable late game is a problem. The kicker version of the mechanic seems much more fun.

    1. PS - I honestly don't understand R&D's insistance that token lands are hard to track. Are they really more difficult to track than creature tokens that attacked? Plus, WotC prints token cards every set these day so that problem has a fix.

    2. Nich: I've wondered the same. I think it's because attacking is a more visceral action that every player is more aware of, but tapping often flies under the radar. You declare attackers, but you dont declare what lands you tap, you know? So its harder to remember.

    3. This reminds me of an issue I keep forgetting to bring up:

      Zendikar was adventure world, but then the Eldrazi were unleashed. Now it's Matrix 3 where everything we loved about the original has been replaced by a desperate war for survival. Who's got time for adventuring when the entire plane is fighting a losing battle just to continue to exist?

    4. Agreed, Jay. When I did my own "Fight for Zendikar" mini-set, the mechanic for the Zendikar faction was Persist. So that should say a bit.

    5. @Nich re: token lands: The argument is even more bizarre in that basic lands are literally the most common of cards - It's super easy to find a "token" lying around. Concerns re: shuffling them back into the deck, etc., but still, land tokens beats the hell out of searching for basic lands and shuffling.

    6. @Jay: There's definitely the survival element here, but I don't want this to be Mirrodin Beseiged or New Phyrexia, where everything is about the fight.

      There are only three major Eldrazi, and while they are a clear and immediate threat to Zendikar, even with their brood they're not as all-encompassing as phyrexians. There's a lot going on on Zendikar that's not Eldrazi, including parties going on quests to understand them, to find ways to stop them that aren't directly confronting them, etc.

  11. I saw a mechanic similar to excavation but it said things like "put an exploration counter on a land you control. Deal damage to target creature equal to the number of land you control with exploration counters on."

    I liked that more because the number of lands still represented a limit, but in a positive way. And excavate had the same problem as poison used as a cost - it's not a cost for a single excavate spell.

    1. I like that. If we tie it to the amount explored, then there's a real reason to go with it. Interesting.

    2. Oh, that is a very interesting twist. It inherently encourages putting lots of them in a deck (linear rather than Reuben's anti-linear). Players like to have themes to build their decks around, which landfall easily enables (play Harrow, and fetchlands, etc) and excavate really doesn't. Jack's version here does allow a focused deck in the same way. Preferably more than one focused deck, if the mechanic exists in sufficient numbers and across three or more colours.

      However, that opens up a new problem. What kind of mechanics are actually permissible, especially at common, to be "X, where X is some variable potentially-large number"?

      If the commons are mostly one-shots (sorceries, instants, or ETB triggers on creatures) then you've got a good amount of possibilities. (Token-making, +X/+0, +X/+X, -X/-0, -X/-X, creature burn, player burn, Impulse, "X target creatures gain [colour-appropriate keyword]". Distant Melody makes me wonder if even "draw X cards" might be permissible at common, but there hasn't been a scaling card-draw effect at common since NWO so probably not.)

    3. I think "X is the number of FOO, do [thing that depends on X]" is one of the most dangerous design spaces.

      It often proves undevelopable, and rarely leads to interesting fair cards. I think WOTC has wisely backed off this space a lot in recent time. A little is okay, mostly at uncommon, but it can be really swingy in limited and constrain deck choices too much in constructed.

      General rule: If a card can be really, really powerful in exactly the right circumstances, development has to cost the card to be appropriate for those circumstances. That means that when a deck, for whatever reason, can't achieve those circumstances, the card will be far below the desirable power line.

      This is generally why threshold mechanics like Metalcraft are preferred, though obviously we get the occasional Master of Waves and Mass Appeal.

    4. Thank you (the suggestion came from a space set on multiverse, I can't remember the name, but it was called "colonize")

      I agree with all the risks but I thought about this anyway.

      One thing that appealed to me about it was that there is some sort of cap, in the number of lands. (You could tweak it further by saying "basic lands of the same type" or "untapped lands" or something although I don't know if it would help.) Or you could make it a threshold ("if you've explored three or more lands...") although that does read very arbitrary.

      Another limit is that it's limited by the explore cards -- there won't be any artifact lands, development can observe what the cheapest explore cards are and how many you could get into a deck.

    5. I ended up iterating something similar above, nested under Jenesis' first comment.

  12. Can we find a single mechanic that both makes Eldrazi frightening in a thematic way and helps players cast them?

    Psionic Colossus {10}
    You may exile the top 10 cards of your library to cast ~ for {6}.
    Alien (~ deals damage to players in the form of exiling that many cards from the top of their library.)


    Psionic Colossus {8}
    Alien (~ deals damage to players in the form of exiling that many cards from the top of their library.)
    At the end of your turn, if ~ didn't deal damage to an opponent, it deals its power in damage to you.


    Rakdos Eldrazi {2B}{2B}{2R}{2R}
    When ~ ETB, if you spent 8 mana to cast it, each opponent sacrifices a creature. Otherwise, you do.

    1. Committed Eldrazi {6}
      Corrupting (Land you spend to cast this lose all abilities and gain "{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.")

    2. Rakdos Eldrazi is really cool!

      Corrupting is interesting, but the fact it presents no choice makes it a pure downside ability. Ruincast is a lot better.

      Is there any reason you're not trying out the "Derange" ability I recommended? I thought it was a way better version of "Alien" (as you call it) since it doesn't have the issue of making it way harder to win.

    3. Derange is more complex. As a downside mechanic, alien/derange allows us to make creatures bigger than what we're paying for, and that bonus size can account for the added 'milling damage.' Which is more appealing…?

      Alien Eldrazi {6}
      8/8 with Alien

      Deranged Eldrazi {6}
      4/4 with Deranged

    4. Deranged isn't that much more complex, in my opinion.

      And Deranged isn't as close to a downside mechanic as Alien. Alien lets us use bigger bodies, agreed, but Deranged should theoretically not alter the cost or body of a card at all. Unlike Infect - where the "buff" is a much faster and unhealable form of damage - Deranged has far less "buffs", the exact same "downsides", and even an additional "downside" - it doesn't do anything special to creatures.

      For this reason, I think Deranged could conceivably be put on any creature without changing its body or cost at all. (Or at the very least, not as drastically as Deranged Eldrazi).

      I honestly think a Phyrexian Hulk or Obsianus Golem with Deranged is not too broken. I might be wrong, though.

    5. why a replacement effect for the milling? Instead go the lifelink route.

      Insanitytouch(Damage dealt by this creature also causes each opponent to exile the top cards of his or her library)

      means you can keep the large body and have it matter even when blocked.

  13. I feel like I'm the only one here that seriously DISLIKES milling as a mechanic for the Eldrazi. Is you use Mindnihilator as you have it, most of the time it doesn't matter at all, since your 10/10 is just going to kill them before you mill them. If you do what others have suggested and replace damage with milling or exiling cards, you end up with an extremely parasitic mechanic, that also has the practical effect of effectively cutting all of your printed powers by 1/2 - 2/3. Infect got away with requiring you to only play infect creatures because they were small and aggressive, but you can hardly expect players to play with only 8+drops.

    1. "that also has the practical effect of effectively cutting all of your printed powers by 1/2 - 2/3."

      The Derange ability I recommended above avoids this problem in rather a clever way, I thought, since toughness+power is often twice or more just power.

    2. That certainly helps, but you still have the issue of creatures that don't work with any other creatures, so you're heavily incentivized to play only them, but they all cost 6+ mana.

    3. For what it's worth, I also like annihilator, although I know Maro has also said that it's problematic. It's flavorful, and It seems perfectly reasonable to expect an 8+ mana creatures to suck to get hit by. In all but 2 cases (11 and 15! mana), they had no protection from removal, and you had to untap before they could attack.

    4. 1) It's not just that they suck to get hit by. It sucks even if you can block them. Annihilator triggers on declaration of attack. Even if I have enough 4/4s to double-block your Ulamog's Crusher that's still a 4-for-1.

      2) I don't think the "dies to Doom Blade" argument is a good defense against "the gameplay is miserable". Players don't always have a removal spell sandbagged in hand against your bombs. Especially if those bombs are at uncommon as well as at rare. (And doubly-especially if most of the removal in the set is deliberately designed to not work on Eldrazi.)

    5. FWIW, an examination of all the common removal in the Rise of the Eldrazi set:
      Bala Ged Scorpion
      Daggerback Basilisk
      Dawnglare Invoker
      Flame Slash
      Goblin Arsonist
      Guard Duty
      Heat Ray
      Induce Despair
      Kor Line-Slinger
      Last Kiss
      Lay Bare
      Puncturing Light
      Spawning Breath
      Wrap in Flames

      What I really liked about the set was that you could pick up plenty of removal if you wanted to, but all of them had drawbacks that made them fair in the context of differing threats. Vendetta kills an Eldrazi, no questions asked, but hits you for a ton of life. Heat Ray is the most inefficient red spell on the list but also the only one that can one-for-one an Eldrazi. Narcolepsy and Guard Duty are great against the giant beater Eldrazi but less good against utility creatures. Daggerback Basilisk and Smite kill an Eldrazi for low mana investment but require you to sac off a few lands to Annihilator first. Regress and Shrivel are good against the plan of cheating an early Eldrazi into play off a high-spawn-low-land-count hand; Dawnglare Invoker and Deprive are the reverse, hitting their stride when both players have tons of mana at their disposal.

      Is some of the removal deliberately designed "to not work on" Eldrazi? Sure. But between Spawn and big dudes, the number of cards I would say are useless as removal is vanishingly small (I've had my Ulamog's Crusher killed by Last Kiss + Last Kiss + a fully leveled Echo Mage activation once). The problem of Eldrazi being hard to come back from if ever allowed to get into combat is entirely solvable, but I feel it has to involve options at common that don't cost 4+ CMC.

    6. Damn if Rise wasn't such a great limited environment. But BfZ shouldn't at this point have a goal of being a weird limited environment just yet.

  14. I'm not sure what the target for this is (replacing battle for Zendikar?), but I actually quite like offering for Eldrazi. Obviously it doesn't work with Eldrazi Spawn, but who says we need those in a new set? It tantalizes me with the prospect of having cheaper Eldrazi (or perhaps a new creature type, Horror or Minion type deal).

    Then my Eldrazi deck can actually feel like an Eldrazi deck, and cards are more obviously flavored.

    3U Twisted Gomozao
    Creature - Eldrazi Jelly
    Defender, flying

    1. @Zachariah: Here's the article where I summarized the project:

      The index to all material so far is in the sidebar under Projects

    2. @Jay: Feed makes all your creatures at least a spawn. That makes it worth considering on its own.

      Fodder is a little less interesting.

      As far as aetherswap goes, I absolutely think offering is a better execution than that, both in terms of game play and eldrazi flavor.

  15. Another out-there but flavorful thought: high numbered Devour

    Eldrazi Wurm 4
    Devour 3

    Kozilek 10
    Devour 6

  16. Dragonspeaker shaman on lower cost/rarity drones?

    Common Eldrazi 3
    Eldrazi spells cost you 1 less to cast

    Uncommon Eldrazi 4
    Eldrazi spells cost you 2 less to cast

    Rare Eldrazi 8
    Eldrazi spells cost you 4 less to cast

    Eldrazi titan 15

    Common Eldrazi 6
    Affinity for Eldrazi

    Kozilek 10
    Affinity for Eldrazi

    1. Affinity for Eldrazi sounds terrifying but can't possibly be broken (until you mix in spawn which—I just checked—do have the Eldrazi creature type). So if we leave spawn out, they can power up Affinity for Eldrazi in Modern, which might be fine. Hmm...