Thursday, October 15, 2015

CCDD 101515—Scar & Bushwhack

Cool Card Design of the Day
10/15/2015 - Here are two very similar takes on the same idea, both of them a more manageable form of wither. While it's very cool the way wither scales with power and can be enhanced by pump effects, it's also much harder to develop around such creatures.

Note that scar and bushwhack aren't strictly weaker than wither because both Merciless Vanderi and Skullwald Avenger can kill a 3-toughness creature.

I think I prefer Scar because it's conceptually simpler: You just deal 1 extra damage that happens to be permanent. Bushwhack is more like flanking, so you have to also re-calculate the other creatures' ability to deal damage back. (And I'd definitely strip "blocks or" to encourage attacking.) Scar creatures can be more appealing because scar is like +1/+0 where bushwhack is like +1/+1.


  1. The fact that Scar is "1 extra damage" will go unseen by many players, I fear.

    1. After the first game they play with it?

    2. Because of its greater impact on play?

    3. It feels better, it is clear what it represents thematically, and it has a clear gameplay purpose (it interacts very well with multiple blockers). Also the fact that now their 2/2 can't block your 2/2 feels good. Flanking always played very well, it just had the one irksome and unintuitive clause.

    4. Hm, hopefully Jay. I just feel like the mechanic isn't very intuitive at first glance, and though you're likely to figure it out in play if your opponent understands how to use it, what if neither player does? This isn't a failing of the mechanic, though. Maybe we can make the sequence of events clearer somehow.

      The flanking one plays more interestingly and is actually easier to grok I think, but is tougher to balance, less flavorful (IMO).

    5. Just to clarify, Inanimate, what you expect to be confusing is when my Merciless Vanderi deals 2 damage to your Maritime Guard, then puts a -1/-1 counter on it, and it dies as a result of having 2 damage and 2 toughness? I think that's a legit concern. My instinct is it won't be a wide or long-lasting problem, but I'm glad for your counter-instinct.

      Both mechanics would absolutely need playtesting.

    6. Just like Ashmouth Hound, they would both lead to a lot of embarassing moments on MTGO. How many times did your Ashmouth hound get blocked by a bunch of 1/1s? It happened to me at least 3 or 4 times.

    7. Yes, both points are things I worry about. New players will not see a creature with Scar as potentially threatening 2+1, since all they are likely to look at is its power. (Low-skill new players often ignore text on creatures until it becomes relevant, apparently.)

      The problem with assuming they'll figure it out fast is that you're assuming a low-skill new player has another, higher skill player, to play with them. This is fine for many cases, but still, I'd prefer the cards explain themselves as clearly as possible rather than need someone else to explain them.

      The flanking issue makes combat calculation and board comprehension even tougher - since things could die before even entering combat, meaning you had no chance to trade or to hit them for your maximum potential damage - thus leading to even more frustration, potentially.

      Issues with intuition are easily waved away with 'Well, they'll learn the first time they make the mistake', but I'd just prefer if players never made the mistake in the first place, you know? Still, not much clearer we can get than this reminder text, unfortunately.

    8. I agree with inanimate. I'm not great at predicting what's simple to other people, but my first thought about scar was "I'm going to keep forgetting this".

      Maybe go halfway back to wither and say something like "whenever this deals damage to a creature, put a -1/-1 counter on that creature instead of 1 of the damage" or something?

      But otherwise, yes, I love the flavour and mechanic of scar. And bushwacked too, although again, I think people will muddle up how to play it (I think it's easier to understand than scar, but harder to get right every time).

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  2. Just riffing on a similar flavor that's hopefully even easier to remember:

    Wall of Thorns G
    Creature - Plant Wall
    Whenever a creature deals damage to ~, put a -1/-1 counter on that creature.

  3. I was discussing a nearly identical ability last night and ran into the same Ashmouth Hound problem. I think increasing the comprehension complexity slightly by using different wording is worth the decreased tracking complexity here.

    eg: Cripple (Whenever this deals damage to creature, the first point of damage is dealt in the form of a -1/-1 counter.)

    Remember that especially for keyword mechanics we have been shown that comprehension complexity is nearly always preferable to tracking complexity with keywords like Bestow, Morph etc.

  4. I like Scar more than Bushwack, but I feel that really, Wither is just a better mechanic. I can't see why you'd put Scar in a set over Wither, other than for the sort of "gotcha, I did 3 damage instead of 2" that you get from reading the card.

  5. I like Scar. Particularly as a replacement for infect, sense it still feels punitive without having the same developmental concerns:

    Taint X (Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a creature, that creature gets X -1/-1 counters. Whenever it deals combat damage to a player, that player gets X poison counters.)

    I'd probably limit it to combat damage, considering how backbreaking Wither and Power of Fire was in Eventide limited. Maybe you just don't have that type of effect in the same limited, but it's just a natural combo.

    Bushwack is more problematic, because it's a LOT more powerful. When it also works on defense, I'd worry about groundstalls. On offense, they're hard to block, but mostly small so that's slow too. Hard to see when the fun is there.