Friday, July 8, 2016

CCDD 070816—Flooded

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/8/2016 - Sharing these ideas today because they relate to screwed and deluxe. Where those mechanics looks to mitigate land-screw, these two address land-flood

They're also not Good Enough™, but how they fail is worth discussing.

You know when you're just one land shy of being able to play something that just might keep you in the game? It's been two or three turns, and you're in bad shape, but the game just might still be salvageable? That's the ideal mana-screw moment. That's "bad" variance at its best, creating tension that will make your potential comeback all the more legendary if you pull it off.

You know when you've drawn your third land in a row, with a hand full of land, and you've passed the "Will I top-deck something" moment and are now just working out the statistics of how bad the game screwed you? That's "bad" variance at its worst. You've passed the point where the tension and mystery of a possible comeback were fun, and realizing you've drawn 11 land and only 9 spells, and thinking what rotten luck that is. And you're not wrong.

Crushing Wave's flooded hopefully won't matter in most games, but when it does, you'll be desperate for every chance to climb out of your hole and actually play a game of Magic.

And that's not enough. For how often it'll fire—and of those times, how often a single card won't actually save you—, it's just not worth three lines of text. There's another problem…

The flooded keyword on Leviathan's Wake will turn on far more often, and when it does, you'll be happy to double it by ditching an excess land more often than not. So that's cool, right?

Well. Ignoring the concerns behind twin, we also need to consider the fact that when a keyword says "Do/Have X and you get bonus Y," it's signaling the player that they should seek to do or have X. They should try to make that happen. That's great for mechanics which reward you for doing things you should be doing anyhow, like playing lands for landfall, or sticking synergistic creatures on the field. It's potentially terrible for catch-up mechanics like flooded, that look to make bad situations better. Because we're (unintentionally) asking the player to put themselves in a bad situation.

The four-land threshold on this flooded mitigates that a bit, especially if you can build an aggressive deck that never wants to have more than four lands in play—and enabling that strategy for a season might even be fun for a while. But you'll have players—LSPs and not—discarding their only land in hand while they could use it to cast a five-drop, just because it's a free Shock and that's a great use for a land (especially when you're under pressure).

We might see past that to print flooded, but "sometimes doubled for no mana" is going to be quite hard to develop, meaning we'll see a bunch of these that are quite bad when un-doubled, and a few that are just too good when they are doubled. Which might be reason enough to cut them from the set.

(But my main point—and this applies to Crushing Wave too—is that mechanics that mitigate bad times often encourage players putting themselves in bad situations. Which is bad.)


  1. Did Retrace have the problems you mention about newer players discarding all their lands to Flame Jab et al? I honestly don't recall.

    1. Good Q. I don't know. It may be that with retrace you don't have to spend the land *right now* so if you're not sure, you can wait a turn and see if you need land or flame jab more.

    2. It probably didn't often since you were usually better off casting other spells and coming back to retrace when you had nothing else to do. Exceptions like going all-in on Raven's Crime.

  2. After more land-flooded games, I'm thinking Flooded doesn't go "too far enough."

    Flooded (For each land you control in excess of non-land cards you control and in your graveyard, you may discard a land card to draw a card.)

  3. Yeah, the more I play after having templated this test—a test I guarantee many players check against while bored and frustrated from mana flood—the more I'm compelled to find a way to make this work.

    But there's the issue of land cards in your hand (which you're counting against your bad luck, but your opponent can't see). And that flooded#1 is always on for your first spell of the game, even if your starting hand was two lands and five bears).

    Dowsing 1UU
    Sorcery (cmn)
    Flooded (If you have drawn more lands than nonlands this game, you may reveal cards from your hand to prove it. If you do, draw a card.)
    Draw two cards.

    This'll work in most games, but falls apart when you introduce milling. Ach. This is a perfect problem to solve, but the execution is Trouble.

    1. I keep coming back to this mechanic.

      We can ignore cards in hand, since they can be played given time, and we can deal with the first-spell problem by keeping these 4+ CMC.

      Breathe {3}{W}
      Gain 7 life.
      Flooded (If, among visible cards, you own at least as many land cards as not, draw a card.)