Thursday, June 8, 2017

CCDD 060817—Spy Mage, Steely Captain & Tower Thief

Cool Card Design of the Day
6/8/2017 - Hardened Berserker and Conduit of Storms represent a new vein of design space for red that attracts me. Let's play with the idea of attacking helping us to cast spells. Since we've got saboteur technology laying around, I'm going to use that today.

What if you could cast a spell without mana when you deal enough damage? That's conceptually very simple, though it does consume a lot of text to express. That ability would be quite dangerous on a high power creature and nearly unusable on a 1-power creature; Which is why I put it on a smallish creature with potential to be medium. It's also why I didn't keyword it: there just aren't enough cards you could put it on.

If we instead trade that free-or-not threshold for a discount, the player gets a lot more flexibility. By un-coupling the discount from the amount of damage dealt, we gain the freedom to put plunder on creatures of any size, but lose the fun of letting players Giant Growth and get a free Dark Ritual. Then again, maybe that's for the best. This execution is definitely the safest.

It's a bit frustrating that two or more plunder creatures can't combine their effect to deeply discount a single spell. Infiltrate fixes that by letting you stack your discounts. It also forces you to stack them, but it's still a net gain. As you can see, I'm conflicted whether to tie the discount to damage and marry it to low power creatures, or to make it static. Scaling with a creature's damage is just so compelling.

Because all of these use the saboteur trigger, they suffer from a drawback that Hardened Berserker doesn't: They can't help you cast combat tricks (at least not without first strike… which would be a fun discovery for players). My takeaway from this exploration is that the best option may well be to stick with the Berserker's ability. This also hides the fact that we're not scaling with power/damage. Not sure we want to use it enough to keyword it, but I found a fun one.


  1. I agree that Hardened Berserker's ability is probably the best iteration, though there is definitely something compelling in the idea of Infiltrate - however, it turns combat tricks into rituals (when unblocked), which is very potent and tough to balance, I think.

    Charge still encourages combat tricks for a variety of reasons - discount, helps it live if it gets blocked, etc. - but has a variety of other uses as well. The problem is, it probably couldn't be keyworded... it's a more aggressive variant of a mana dork, and a set can only handle a certain amount of mana dorks. There's a reason cost-reduction is usually on the spell being reduced, rather than on something else.

    At that point, we're lead to a classic custom keyword that quite a few people have used, and even we experimented with briefly in Tesla - "This spell costs 1 less to cast for each creature [you control?] that attacked this turn."

    Still, the idea here is certainly compelling, and I want it to work. If there's a simple wording to demand the creature -survive- combat to get the discount, then that might open up more room for it to work - it's a lot easier to fight the 'mana-dorkiness' of it at that point, since you can just block and kill it.

    1. Agreed. Costs-less=attackers is safer and still fun.

      Here's the survive-combat version:
      Charge {R} (At the beginning of your main phase, if ~ attacked this turn, add {R} to your mana pool.)

      Also Initiate's Companion.

  2. Could we lean more towards bluffing with "when CARDNAME becomes blocked, the next spell you cast this turn costs (blah) less to cast"?

    1. Sure! That would make bigger discounts reasonable.