Tuesday, September 22, 2015

CCDD 092215—Hire/Hidden Informant

Cool Card Design of the Day
9/22/2015 - Hidden Informant was an experiment in top-down design that showed negative results. That's not a failed experiment, though, because that data led to something positive.

You cast this and suddenly one of my creatures has turned traitor, but I don't know which because it's passing you my secret plans on the sly. Do I try to get some of my creatures killed to plug the leak?

I'm pretty happy with the theoretical gameplay there, but the real life gameplay is pretty ugly. You have to trust your opponent not to cheat and that's not exactly a strong suit among Magic players. How much does it hurt the core idea if we give up the secret part?

A bit, but it's an easy trade for the combined win of much simpler/shorter text and no trust issues nor external information tracking. Hire Informant doesn't include any mind games, but it does still challenge you with how to handle your mole. Maybe you pump it up and swing for the fences, pushing the dilemma back on its caster.

It's common for a designer to avoid a path because they can sense doom at the end, but traveling that dark corridor often reveals hidden branches that aren't necessarily doomed. Embrace short-term failure for long-term success.


  1. Of course, this gets a little trickier when you Hire your own creature as an informant. Then, it becomes an Enchant Creature for BB with "At the beginning of your upkeep, draw a card." We'd probably add a life loss rider to that, whether it's 1-life-per, Confidant-CMC, or =enchanted creature's power.

    We lose a little of the "creature ratting out its owner" flavor, but can keep the "turning traitor" a little bit- is this within the color pie?

    Orzhova Confessional 2WB
    Enchantment - Aura
    Enchant creature
    At the beginning of your upkeep, tap enchanted creature and draw a card.

    1. I forget whether the second one being able to enchant your own was intentional or not, but I do think that's a fair aura given the risk inherent in it. That does ruin the flavor and is no longer very black, though. We could just re-add "enchant a creature you don't control."

      Orzhova Confessional is neat, though tapping the creature removes most of the options for self-kill. It also looks WU or even mono-U.

    2. It does tap it at the beginning of your turn, so they can still attack with it.

    3. Pasteur, the simplest way to alleviate that concern is to have Hire Informant have "Enchant creature you don't control"

  2. "Secretly choosing" would be just like "secretly naming" for the Conspiracies in Conspiracy. You'd have to make a note of it, for example, a post-it note or index card. Therefore it's pretty simple to check.

    The problem, of course, is that it's tougher to differentiate between two creatures of the same name in the "secretly choose" fashion. Thus, we can reword the card like so:

    Fifth Column {3}{B}{B}
    When Fifth Column enters the battlefield, secretly name a creature an opponent controls.
    (Blah blah same text as before)
    When each opponent controls no creatures with the chosen name, sacrifice Fifth Column.

    It's similar, but different in that you can pick a creature they have multiples of. This makes the decision even more weighted. Do you pick their Baneslayer Angel, or their three Soldier tokens?

    I'm not sure this is actually any better of a design, mind you - but it certainly solves the issue you mentioned.

  3. I'm very enamored with the original version. It would certainly easily work in a game like Hearthstone. Speaking of which, Hearthstone has done a really good job lately at exploring the space of "Things that Hearthstone can do that (offline) Magic can't (easily do)." So for all of you Magic junkies who rapidly dismissed Hearthstone as uninteresting (as I did), I'd encourage you to have another look.

  4. Just letting you know that the card Zendikar Incarnate from Magic Origins appears to be missing from your awesome deckbuilder site wizardsfamiliar. Thanks!