Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CCDD 051816—Stitched

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/18/2016 - I started exploring a new Skaab mechanic—perhaps because Shadows refused to deliver on that aspect of its predecessor—and hit upon a keyword fun enough to just keep making cards for. Check it out.

The resemblance to Headless Skaab's additional cost is clear, but this keyword is all-upside.

We can make commons with quite a lot of potential because the resource isn't automatic.

We can include static abilities that treat stitched like monstrous, giving our creature alternate states. You could cobble together an "Unleashed Skaab" in this way, or a "Juggernaut Skaab."

Power-wise, I'm confident Aggro Skaab can be common. I'm significantly less sure we want to challenge players with a 1/0 at common, though.

Like the original skaabs, we see a sort of anti-tribal nature to the tribe, where you're happy to play a couple skaabs, but not more without support. Of course, Innistrad put that support within the same tribe, and I would as well, reprinting cards like Armored Skaab.

We can increase the per-card-exiled rate, on a card or two.

We can also offer other rewards. Stitched is a lot like devour in this respect, but fueled by your organic losses, as opposed to causing you losses itself.

We can care about the quality of creatures exiled.

We definitely only need one of Aggro Skaab and Little Skaab. Hmm.

We could absolutely shape Standard so that a one-drop like this can have Stitched 3 or even 5. The upper bound just won't matter early when it's a problem, but can give the card relevance late. Unfortunately, older formats can fill graveyards so fast that we'll have to temper our ambitions. Maybe stitched 3 can pass on a 0/0?

Hmm. Body Double +1 probably needs to cost more.

Too much tension? I'm thinking most boards will have a pretty clear best answer for how big you want Sneaky Skaab to be.


  1. One of the things I learned from ISD is that creatures hit your graveyard a lot less often then you think they do. Indeed, it was so often the case that Skaab Goliath rotted in your hand, and it was punished so horribly by bounce spells. This suggests to me that, if Stitched is going to be a keyword, it basically has to be Stitched 1, because otherwise players will too often have empty graveyards.

    I've been trying to get something like this to work in Crystal Clash for years, but it has been a tough nut to crack.

  2. Ooh, I like the idea here.

    I wanted to see a rare with "Stitched 15" :)

    I think Tommy has a good point. Maybe it would be ameliorated if it was just exile until the skaab leaves the battlefield, so if it dies you can reuse the cards? Or it would be less flavourful but more flexible if it referred to any cards, not just creature cards.

    I don't like the anti-synergy either. I think that's fine for some things but feels like a shame for creatures, people love tribal. I wonder if there's any way of sharing the bonus. Eg. "put a +1/+1 counter on each stitched creature you control" instead of "on this", or "gets +1/+1 for each card you own exiled with a stitch ability" so each stitched card counts towards future skaabs. But that might be too similar to allies, and have memory issues, it illustrates the direction I wondered about, but isn't a concrete suggestion.

    1. Or, I guess, you could have the same effect as my variants without the complexity by saying "Stitched 2 (this gets +1/+1 for each creature card in your graveyard, up to a max of 2)".

      But that's maybe more G than U.

  3. Do we take issue with the Innistrad solution of making Skaabs that fill your graveyard for the other ones?

    1. Well, in Innistrad the self-mill stuff did a ton of work for the set, not just for Skaabs, and ISD did not have many self-mill creatures, I think just Armored Skaab in Blue? I definitely don't want to make the mechanic into "collect a bunch of self-mill and Skaabs so that together you can do something" because those mechanics are awful and horribly uninteresting (see Process).

      I'd definitely expect to see some self-mill card, like an Armored Skaab or a Forbidden Alchemy type card, but I think the mechanic is more interesting if you are primarily getting creatures in your graveyard through manipulating the board state into making lots of trades.

  4. Despite how well Skaabs were received (and I do think they were a convincing part of ISD's flavor canvas), I feel like Blue is the fifth-best color for Stitched to fit in.

    It's an obvious pick for black with this flavor in any traditional world; and green *is* the creature color and has prominent graveyard interactions within its playbook. Red would play up the "burning up bodies" aspect or the Devour-adjacency, and white could use it for an Abzan-esque honor-the-ancestor mechanic - call it "Kin" in white or "Kindle" in red.

    1. Heh. Yeah, if we ditch Skaabs, blue gets stitched last.

  5. Delve works because it's okay if you can't exile the cards later in the game - you'll have enough mana to be able to hardcast the spells.

    Stitched, on the other hand, has no recourse. Once you run out of creatures in the yard, you can't get those counters on them any other way. Whereas Delve trades one resource for another, always giving you the option to fall back on the other resource, Stitched is problematic because there is no fall-back option.

    With Delve, yes, the spell becomes over-costed, but generally they're still fair. With these spells, many of them are just sad when they can't be stitched. For this reason, I'd stick to Stitched 1.

  6. One of the things I liked best about the original Skaab mechanic is that it read really well to me as a first impression. The cards are huge for blue, and the additional cost seems negligible when you imagine playing it. So many mechanics are underestimated when revealed, that I think it's especially important to design mechanics that are overestimated at first glance (while also not being disappointing).

    Stitched probably plays okay, giving you more flexibility, but it loses some of that excitement.