Thursday, December 8, 2016

CCDD 120816—Voidmage Acolyte & Demolitions Expert

Cool Card Design of the Day
12/8/2016 - How do you make players happier to play a card that's been nerfed for being unfun?

The cards already exist, so we can't change them. We can either make the environment around them sufficiently weaker—which would cause a riot—or we can create cards that make them better…

Arguably better 1/3. Maybe 1/2 for {U}?
Naming specific cards is hard to pull off well. Bogbrew Witch does it well with Festering Newt and Bubbling Cauldron; Helm of Kaldra and merge cards have to do it; Kookus and Kher Keep are all about making callbacks to quirky cards that implied a relationship with nonexistent cards; but tying Nissa Revane to Nissa's Chosen for all time felt limiting; and Urborg Panther needing Feral Shadow and Breathstealer to get Spirit of the Night was just way too specific.

Here, I'm exploring the angle of naming an evergreen card—so everyone knows it—that doesn't get chosen over similar cards in order to add new value to it. For this to work, it's important that our enablers aren't awful on their own, so that the synergy feels like pure upside. Demolitions Expert is good enough for Limited, but probably not Standard (though maybe cantrip Demolish works in a certain deck). Voidmage Acolyte will only go in Limited decks with a couple Cancels already (or desperate for two-drops), but might be good enough in the right Standard deck (some tribal synergy would help a lot).

What other cards might we upgrade this way?


  1. I like Voidmage Acolyte a lot, although I wonder if "U less" is really the correct reward.

    A more complicated design:

    Cancel Giant 3U
    Creature - Wizard (C)

    When you put ~ into play you may return a card named Cancel from your graveyard to your hand. If you do, untap up to three lands you control.


    1. Three basic lands? Otherwise it's just the free spell mess all over again.

    2. Three basic lands or "up to three basic Islands" are fine.

      I admit I thought about the free spell nonsense, but decided there was no way it would come up. But once bitten twice shy I guess.

    3. Cool. Getting a whole card back seems plenty good for a 3U 3/3 common.

    4. A whole card but only very conditionally, and the curve 3 mana cancel, 4 mana 3/3 into Cancel again is too cool to pass up!

  2. I find specifically making cards that encourage playing subpar cards to lead to Really swingy gameplay. It's the Ripple effect, where these go from being terrible to bring too good.

    But it's still a neat concept:

    Eater of Rot 1B
    Creature - Zombie (C)
    Whenever a player discards cards to Mind Rot, exile those cards and put two +1/+1 counters on Eater of Rot.

    1. I think players jamming a bunch of awful cards into their decks is a potential problem with this idea for sure, but cards like Cancel aren't so much subpar as narrow.

      Cards like Demolish, on the other hand, are really awful and I think even printing them is sinful, so printing a card that encourages new players to play them is morally reprehensible.

    2. Salvage Expert 2R
      Creature - Drawven Rogue (C)
      Whenever Demolish destroys an artifact or land, you may return that card to the battlefield under your control.

    3. It's a very good point that we should be conscious of the messages our designs send players. Mine add context to old cards, which serves entrenched players. They also tell new players to play those cards, though, so another--arguably better--path is to name cards new players don't know to value but should.

    4. There are just other ways to lead players to those cards that aren't quite so prescriptive. Part of Magic's appeal is that cards work with many other cards. If Eater of Rot triggered off any discard, it'd be a better card.

  3. Cancelcaster Mage 1U
    Creature - Wizard (R)


    When ~ enters the battlefield you may cast a card named Cancel from your graveyard without paying its mana cost. If you do, exile it as it resolves.