Tuesday, February 2, 2016

CCDD 020216—Seek

Cool Card Design of the Day
2/2/2016 - I sure do love smoothing mechanics. Almost like I think the game is just a bit too random without one.

Seek is a bit like dig, but less powerful and more versatile, trading card advantage for card selection.

Compare Oknatu Leafcutter with Loam Larva. Seek gives you much less control (over the kind of land you get), but is much faster to execute.

Mid- and late-game cards will want to seek for spells rather than lands.

Seek is cheaper to use than a cantrip, but far from inconsequential. And entirely compatible with card draw, where appropriate.

'May' will be important on land seeking—since that would hurt players late—and on nonland seeking that happens early—since players will often need land then. If the player isn't compelled to trigger it, as above, or it's always beneficial, as below 'may' becomes unnecessary.

Giving players some choice will be appreciated, though unlimited choice is dangerous, since it's easy to include exactly one (playset of an) artifact, enchantment, or planeswalker in a deck.

But there are lots of different categories we can use. Notably, wider isn't always better or worse than narrower.

There are also a lot of triggers that can work with seek. Multiple triggers firing at once are redundant, which simplifies execution and puts a safety valve on the mechanic, but also limits its potential and will occasionally feel bad.

EDIT: Jason revealed how the above mechanic is broken.
So I made a card to see just how much longer the cascade template is:

It's actually <1 line longer. In this example, it fits in the same number of lines. Not as bad as I thought.

This example also happens to demonstrate that seek is still too strong when you've got one card of the sought type in your deck. The only way to make the player want to play more than one artifact—in this example—is to limit their search and reward them for playing more by increasing their odds of success:


  1. Surprised this hasn't been done before.

  2. If I seek something that doesn't exist, when do I stop looking? do I shuffle?

    1. Damn good point.

      Pained to say I don't see an obvious solution.


      …I guess this is why we haven't seen this movement in place of "put all those cards on the bottom in any/random order." No way to know when you've been through the entire deck.

    2. If we prepend "you may" to "then repeat this process," players have a manual escape button they can press at any time. IIRC, a player can't draw a game by electing to continue an infinite process they could elect not to.

    3. I would be against anything that let a player choose when to stop. There are ways to get advantage from that that I consider unfun. How bad is it to word it like cascade but with "If a card is found put the others on the bottom of you library in the order they were exiled, otherwise shuffle them"? You could even always put them back in order and it wouldn't be too bad. Players would see the order of the deck in a somewhat unlikely situation but it wouldn't break the game or incentivise players to do it intentionally.

    4. As worded, I can't imagine how you'd benefit from stopping early* since the last card you saw, you put on the bottom; you wouldn't know what's on top.

      *Except that you could intentionally seek something you know isn't in your deck, go through it once to see the order of your deck, and then go through again until you reach the best possible spot. That's game-ruining enough we must prevent it. Either by changing the keyword as you propose, or by only putting seek-n on cards of type n (to guarantee they exist in the deck) and using seek land (which is always guaranteed to exist).

      You helped me to realize another feel-bad: When you seek for something helpful and find it, but pass something even better in the process. We could make putting wrong cards on the bottom optional, so a player can stop anywhere, but that fits the flavor worse, and encourages players to seek for things they don't have even outside of combo.

      I think exiling during the process is necessary, which just makes me sad because it's so much wordier.

  3. This mechanic has been in the Crystal Clash file for a while, so I've played with it a good bit (although in my version you get the card in your hand). My original reason for wanting it was that I was trying to make something like an equipment deck work and it helped you draw the right mix of creatures and equipment.

    In Magic, I think I'd be inclined to make the mechanic "Choose land or non-land..." since most often (especially in limited where smoothing mechanics are most beneficial) what you really care about is drawing the right mix of land and non-land.

    Agree with the above commenter that you have to exile the cards that don't match, and then maybe shuffle them and put them back on bottom to avoid an infinite loop.

    1. I'd probably use just "You may seek land" or just "You may seek nonland" for the first set, but I wouldn't bake non/land into the keyword since it costs us no simplicity but allows much more later on. That said, it's a very reasonable split.

    2. "You may seek land" is such an uninspiring ability. I get that sometimes it is worth it to do, but nerfing your own draw step so you have to draw a land is such a feel bad moment. The modal version is exciting because when you put the card in your deck you can fantasize about drawing some awesome thing that isn't a land, and then when the game situation comes up where you need a land, you can be clever and use the ability for something other than its "intended" purpose.

      I could imagine it would make a better gameplay experience if you used a Seek token that you put on top of your deck so you only made the choice the next time you drew a card. That way you don't ruin the magic of the draw step, which is a big problem with mechanics like this and scry etc.

    3. So it was a mistake to print Loam Larva?

    4. For me, yes, absolutely, I would infinitely prefer never to print cards like Loam Larva. Design is complicated, and there are circumstances that come up that call for printing cards I'd rather not print. Are Wastes a big enough excuse to print Loam Larva? I'm a maybe on that, leaning towards no.

      If you look at something like Ainok Guide, that is just 100% a mistake to me.