Monday, February 15, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge Review 021216—multiplayer mechanics

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Hello all. Guest goblin inspector Anastase here. It has been a busy weekend for Goblin Artisans, and it is time to inspect your craftsmanship. This is the challenge we are reviewing.

A few words on the challenge first:

Actually fulfilling all the requirements was very hard. A mechanic that works well both in duels and multiplayer usually has to scale upwards.

Making it general enough for the cards to be usable by all colors or a cycle of 5 color combinations requires to find a situation or trigger that all colors will care about.

Doing that while keeping the mechanic fun adds a layer of complexity on its own, since "fun" is a very broad term.

A few ways that have been proven to work are the will of the council, offering and dethrone cards, even though dethrone stayed in Grixis.

This challenge was meant as a way to make people think about the intersection of duels and multiplayer, about what is important to have to make a multi-player game tick. I secretly added a focus on combat (which is supposed to make MtG end and its major place of interaction) by asking to design one mechanic about that. The main phase restriction was more open-ended, but I had hoped for some way to make sorcery speed effects slightly more interactive.

The images were not restrictive this time, since you could suggest your own images if you had a mechanic that did not fit them.

I will present some more thoughts on this challenge and the nature of challenges in the conclusion of this article, but for now let us see some excellent cards!

Just after posting the challenge Jay and I went on an agitated back an forth with these proposed cards:

Warmonger is fun, is cyclable, and works both in single player and multiplayer. It helps prevent mana-screw and allows for games to be interesting since people will be hitting gas as long as he stays around. It is something I would love to see. As Jack mentions, if this was a multiplayer-only mechanic we might not even need scry for it to be printable.

Precedent is slightly less fun (who likes giving things to the opponents?) but it can do a lot of work in multi-player. It is cyclable. I do not think players would favor it in single player that much, even with the addition of drawing an extra card, but remains a quite printable mechanic. Making the precedent cost require colored activation, or high hybrid cost activation ({2B}{2B}{2B} for example) would make it more playable in a duel, since it would be more rare to have your spells flung back at yourself. Not to mention that if it is in a Conspiracy-style draft format, it would make people that drafted similar colors kind of ally with each other, casting each others spells a second time.

The Cozen crafted these cards.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Crux is above NWO's average complexity and needs clearer templating: The intent here is to use both modes, one mode on each player and one on a player of your choice, but the choice of which mode you get to target is given to an opponent. I suspect that this might be moderately fun in general and very much appreciated by multi-player spikes.

As MaRo has taught us is the way to go when making cards: some cards have to be designed for each of the many diverse audiences of magic. The mechanic works better in multiplayer than in single player, but remains quite printable in single player. It is easily cyclable. We just need to find a way to simplify the wording, or, failing that, simplify the mechanic (which is what I would personally try to do). Any ideas, artisans?

Brawl is an interesting mechanic that stumbles on a regular issue I have: How do you secretly choose a creature? (Perhaps I will ask you all to design something that solves this problem next week.) What does that secrecy bring to this mini-game? If a player controls a creature with (or tied for) the greatest power on the battlefield, he or she will brawl and the others will not, unless they control an indestructible or regenerating creature. This feels very Red, it does not feel cyclable unless you go for a multicolor cycle with UG/UR/RW/WB/BG.

Again, a lot of complexity that overshadows an interesting idea. I guess this could be fun both in multi-player and in single player if modified to use fight and if we managed to solve the whole secrecy issue, but as it is, I have no idea how to make it printable.

Ipaulsen crafted the next cards.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Pile on mirrors a mechanic I had in mind when I started musing about this challenge, in that I was thinking of allowing others to block for you, while here you allow others to attack with you. This is a very fun multi-player mechanic. It does not scale down that well since the only option you will have if you wanted to take advantage of the ability, as Ipaulsen noted, would be to use a creature you control that is tapped or suffers from summoning sickness. It also is a difficult mechanic to cycle.

Reciprocate is an amazing name for a multi-player ability, but is essentially strive. It scales well given that the more targets you have the better effect you get, and still works well in duels. It is easily cyclable and quite fun.

Jenesis crafted the following cards.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Maneuver is another very fun multi-player mechanic. It can probably be cycled through the colors at higher rarities. It does not however translate that well in a duel, except perhaps to deal the damage to a planeswalker instead of a player if the creature was not blocked? I doubt that would come up very often. Still the mechanic does provide tension in a game, making people care about attacks throughout the combat phase. I appreciate the effort taken to not use "attacking and isn't blocked."

"For each player" is the other mechanic that Jenesis submitted. The reminder text seems slightly weird, unless the format for which this card is printed explicitly requires it to have a range, such as some forms of Pentacle Magic or Emperor or something like that. I like the effect and by definition it scales very well with the number of players.

Czynski crafted the next set of cards.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Blood Money is a rattlesnake design. You play this and people will not want to attack you because it will have a bad consequence. This is the case of no mercy, deathtouch and many other mechanics. It works very well in multi-player since it will send attacks somewhere else, making your opponents waste their resources while you preserve yours. It is not very fun, but it is useful. It could easily be played in duels, and I could see a cycle spanning all colors.

Copy-this-spell-at-the-next-main-phase is a mechanic that is interesting. It is in the vein of the  offering cycle, but you do not get to choose who gets your offering. It will work in duels for Jenny, and could be cycled. My fear is that, without a significant price reduction for this spell (given that it also gives a copy of the spell to one of your opponents) it will be unloved.

Jack crafted these cards.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Finishing Blow encourages a type of all-in red deck that usually falls short in multi-player after taking one opponent out. This way, you get to have a second go by refilling your hand after you deal with someone. And you do not even have to deal with your target personally! You can weigh into any combat, and receive your card back no matter who brings your opponent down. This is a reverse fateful hour. It will work both in multi-player and in duels and is fun. I do not know if it is cyclable due to white, blue and green not being too much about finishing blows, but it could probably be a multi-color cycle.

Treaty has an also in its wording that bothers me. If it was on a green card that gave two +1/+1 counters to a creature would the opponent also draw a card, or also get a +1/+1 counter on a creature? It is a good mechanic that can work in duels and multiplayer. It is fun because it creates alliances, and can very easily be cycled.

​Pasteur crafted the next batch.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Tribute works well in multiplayer. Its execution in the Theros block demonstrated that the ability was a bit disappointing in duels, since your opponent would always select the option that best fitted them, and the card did not let you live the dream, but I guess it could have a second life in auxiliary products that care about multi-player. It could be cycled easily and can give some very fun cards. Pasteur tried to remove the stigma with a card that would probably work well in SoulSisters.deck.

Triumph is an interesting keyword, caring about bloodshed among your foes. It does not care about main phases at all, but it is a very fun multiplayer mechanic that also works in duels. I can imagine a cycle of allied colored cards.

P for Pizza crafted this next card.  Let us examine if the mechanic fulfills the challenge.

Rise to the Challenge counts creatures and there will be more creatures on the battlefield in a multi-player game than in a duel. It still would work in a duel. I guess that other colors could rise to the challenge in different ways, drawing cards, growing enormous, destroying everything... The wording of the ability however could be simplified. As it is, Rise to the Challenge has so many moving gears: 1) activated ability cost 2) definition of X 3) number of targets 4) remembering if it was activated before 5) timing restriction. I think I would try to use a type of veteran/monstrous templating to simplify this.

Zeno Rage crafted the last pair of cards.  Let us examine if the mechanics fulfill the challenge.

Bounty is similar to blood money, but rather than being a rattlesnake it is a lightning rod. Every one will want to kill your creature. To compensate you get a very strong effect. When I saw Wanted Warlord's stats I was perplexed, but then I realized it was basically a 4/4. I can see this be a cycle, and it does work both in multiplayer and in duels. It is a card mostly aimed at Timmy.

At home in the crowd needs some polishing both in name and in wording, but at its core is an interesting mechanic. It is stronger in multiplayer but still playable in duels, and it is easily cyclable. I would probably try a name such as Demagogy: Each opponent may pay 2 life. CARDNAME costs {1} less to cast for each opponent that did not do so.

There we go, Artisans.

Good design ideas all around. Following all the constraints was indeed quite hard. The most common pitfall was not finding design space that cares about main phases apart from using sorcery speed. That part is indeed quite difficult to design for and it might be interesting to explore again in more detail another time.

I was expecting to see some bidding mechanics, some selecting/influencing the attacks and blocks of other players, and some morph/manifest interactions, in addition to what you provided, but I should have perhaps provided you with more images.

Never the less you all provided me with cards that I would love to play with!

How did you find this challenge? Do you refer these ones or the ones you interact with other designers?


  1. Note that both my mechanics were built to shine brightest in Two-Headed Giant (or Emperor).

    Blood Money could be a real rules nightmare.

    Note that Declaration of War will cast itself every turn for the rest of the game.

    If I have 4 life and go to 2 life, do you get Pre-Battle Speech back?

    Tribute does seem more interesting in multiplayer. Interesting that you choose who decides whether to pay or not. I'd like Bountiful Emissary even more if you removed the last line.

    Wanted Warlord should totally be 4/4. This is my favorite mechanic named 'bounty' so far. Very spikey. (Suffers from the same rules problems as blood money; 'who killed a thing' isn't well defined.)

    1. Your designs work very well in chaos multiplayer too, Jay. I would love to have some warmongers.

      Blood Money is indeed a nightmare rules-wise. My guess is that it could be done because it feels intuitive, but it should perhaps be by something that cares if it dies when targeted by an opposing player or just is targeted by other players. Same thing for bounty.

      I was so happy to see tribute again, I forgot to apply my usual adage of less is more. Bountiful Emissary is good enough without letting you gain 3 life when it enters the battlefield, and risky enough since you could give one opponent 20 life and then have it exiled.

      I missed many things this inspection, but I hope that will make me more vigilant.

    2. On the spell being copied every turn: I somehow missed that wording too. If it was every turn it should have been an enchantment.

    3. For Blood money and Bounty: Every new mechanic comes with New rules, some a lot more than others. Anything that deals lethal damage, destroyed the creature would count. If the creature were to be exiled, the bounty would not be received. If an effect causes you to sacrifice a creature, then the controller of the creature with bounty will receive the bounty.

      I'm just curious Jay, what other mechanics have you seen named bounty?

      Development would have to test all bounty cards to see how big they can make the creature with bounty. I think 4/4 might indeed be safe, or maybe even 5/5.

    4. The destruction that results from lethal damage is a state-based effect, controlled by no one. That's the biggest hurdle for "destroyed by" identifiers.

      Most of the bounty mechanics I've seen involve putting a counter on a creature and then someone benefiting when it dies. There was one in GDS2 (Frontier IIRC), and at least one on this site.

  2. For my mechanics, I specifically wanted to stay away from mechanics that a) give your opponents stuff or b) give your opponents a choice to make, since I find that to be a thoroughly beaten horse among WotC's existing attempts at "multiplayer mechanics" (and also not very fun).

    One can make the argument that my mechanic #2 (hereinafter "Social") is tied to main phases because there's a social stigma against scooping at instant speed, so that's when a player is less likely to be eliminated and therefore decrease the value you get? (Incidentally, maneuver is also designed to mitigate the pain of "scoop in response to lifelink damage".)

    1. Since I rarely play with people who would deny someone the kill or stop midway I did not think of that particular aspect of multiplayer.

      I agree that most multiplayer mechanics they did in the past were underwhelming or busted, but they are getting closer to the mark with dethrone, will of the council and the last offering cycle.

      I liked maneuver a lot.

  3. Hi! How can i participate in the challenges? I miss this one... but i would love to try it next week. English isn't my primary lenguage, i hope that is not a problem. I particulary like the threaten mechanic Ipaulsen's "pile on". I had a similar idea earlier when i first read the chalenge, but you gained control of target creature and couldn't attack that creatures original controller... it would be difficult to balance. I like warmonger too, and scrying is always good! Keep the good work!

    1. Welcome. Just come back this weekend and add your design in the comments.

  4. I like the idea of "pile on", I had several similar ideas but none quite worked out. Maybe something where target creature's controller has the option to boost the attacking creature, or deal damage to the defending player directly? Something that both (a) re-uses creatures that have already attacked in multiplayer and (b) avoids awkward trading control and awkward templating in non-multiplayer.

    In fact, I considered something where EVERY other player could donate a creature to the cause, on the grounds that attacking is generally under-powered in chaos multiplayer. But that's probably overkill.

    1. Personally I was thinking about a mercenary ability where your opponents could give you a gold coin or two to gain control of the mercenary until end of turn.

  5. Replies
    1. Id does a lot of work in multi-player. It could work with always giving a card or half the effect to another player.

  6. I am completely baffled by what it would be like to actually play "At home in the crowd" / "Demagogy" as seen on Political Debate.

    Suppose I have 4 lands in play. Can I cast the spell? How do I know? What if I announce the spell, then my opponent pays two life and now I cannot pay for it? Do I rewind? Presumably my opponent gets their life back? If I do, can I try again and see if my opponent changes their mind?

    Is this actually any easier if I start out with 5 lands in play? If I announce the spell, then don't like how much it will cost because my opponent declared they would pay the life, am I still forced to cast it?

    Is this even how the spell is supposed to be played in practice? (Announce, give opportunity to pay life to determine cost, either pay cost or not) I think that's how the rules work formally right now. Is there any other way it could possibly work?

    1. You are very correct. I should have spotted this. I guess there needs to be some more work on it. Probably not give the opponent a chance to pay the 2 lives, then as it resolves have them take a decision that would benefit you or hurt them?

      Again well spotted. I should have spotted this.

    2. I realized my mistake yesterday morning before you even brought it up. I might change it to a more Forecast like ability, revealing the card once per turn.

      Debate (Reveal CARDNAME from your hand: Each opponent may pay two life. CARDNAME cost 1 less to cast for each opponent that didn't until end of turn. Activate this ability once per turn.)

      Uggh. Its not as clean as it was before, but hopefully it's better.

      P.S. I was really tired when I submitted my ideas and didn't have any really good ideas for the name. I think Debate is a pretty good name, cause hopefully you'll start one whenever you reveal this card.

    3. Good call, Sam.

      The cleanest is simply:
      Outnumbered (This costs {1} less for each opponent.)

      That's not terribly interesting in a duel, and it's not nearly as interactive, but it directly scales a card's power according to your opposition, which isn't bad.

      Opponents will almost never pay life for the forecast-like Debate because you can simply choose not to cast it, and blackmail them again next round.

    4. There's comes a point in an abilities design where you can try and make your original idea a reality, or you can remove all the unnecessary clutter to create a nice clean and simple design. I think the best is jays idea, Outnumbered.

      I think that my original idea could be a one of rare enchantment that gave all your spells a Debate like effect. Thoughts?

    5. Aetherlink 2UU
      Enchantment (rare)
      "Whenever a spell is cast, an opponent of its caster may lose life equal to its CMC. If one does, counter that spell."

    6. I like that a lot. I've already thought of three different decks crafted around it. My Johnny senses are tingling so much that I think I'll have to go and play test this asap.