Tuesday, November 21, 2017

CCDD 112117—Gem token

Cool Card Design of the Day
11/15/2017 - Sometimes treasure tokens let us cast a spell a turn or two early and that's fun and powerful. Powerful enough that access to treasure is limited at low mana costs, especially at common. Which limits how often treasure tokens are used to make up for missed land drops or to fix your colors when you'd otherwise be color-screwed. And that's a shame, because Magic often lacks that kind of smoothing.

If treasure didn't accelerate your mana, it could be much cheaper, and more common. Let's explore that.

A gem can fix your mana once, just like treasure, but because it's only filtering your mana and not accelerating you, it's safe to create gems on cheap spells at common, where that color-fixing is most helpful.

Decks frequently work their way out of color-screw, so what good are gems then? That's where the second ability comes in: When you don't need color-fixing, gems give you deck-smoothing. That's less impactful than a clue (which is still important because we want to keep these cheap to get) but still very useful, especially when you're land-flooded.

I didn't add a mana cost to the looting ability because it's not inherently necessary, but it may well make sense to add {1} so that it aesthetically matches the fixing ability, or even {2} so that it looks worse, which could be relevant if a player is trying to decide which mode to use and we want to emphasize the fixing ability.

I don't love putting two abilities on a token. It helps that they're both about converting resources. But it also means even more text on cards that generate these tokens. Still, gems promise to turn so many non-games into actual games, it's worth at least considering.

Design a card that makes 1 or 2 gem tokens in the comments below.


  1. Replies
    1. How so?
      Because it's less powerful?

    2. I think it also groks better - you spend a mana to get a better mana, you spend a card to get a better card.

    3. That's definitely true, and relevant.

  2. Gem Hub
    When Gem Hub enters the battlefield create a Gem artifact token.
    T: Add 1 to your mana pool.

    Gem Refiner 1GU
    Creature- Rogue
    When Gem Refiner enters the battlefield create two Gem artifact tokens and draw a card.

    Longgem Cub 1G
    Creature — Cat
    Whenever Longgem Cub deals combat damage to a player, Create two Gem artifact tokens.
    Sacrifice two gems: Put a +1/+1 counter on Longtusk Cub.

    1. Gem Hub is perfect.
      It's a little odd that Gem Refiner grants both gems and cards.
      Longgem Cub is kinda weird.
      I see how you're equating gems to energy, and they are very similar in a surprising number of ways, but I think that gives us reason to treat them more differently rather than less.

    2. The effeciency of Aether Hub is one of the problems with standard (makes energy decks have Mana that's too good). I'd worry about similar balance concerns with a gem filled standard.

      It's also a question of how much you want gems to do on their own, versus how much you want other cards to take advantage of them. Like, if gems just produce Mana, you could have a Goblin that sacrifices gems to rummage. You don't need to have both effects on the token. Ixalan plays with Gold counters this way.

      If I were looking for more token artifact design space, I'd want Gems to be more like this:

      T, sacrifice Gem: Charge a permanent (Choose a permanents with counters on it, then give it another counter of a kind already there.)

      I think they discussed this in Scars design, so maybe it's just too clunky (too many counters in a set for it to work). But the current model feels like splitting the difference between clues and gold in a way that doesn't quite feel unique.

    3. My intention wasn't to explore tokens, but fixing and smoothing mechanics, which the game desperately needs.

    4. That makes sense. A world with energy and AEther Hub just feels a lot like a world of Gems, only Gem world provides even more flexibility. Could be interesting for a world that's otherwise really tough on color fixing (Wastes matter? Devotion matters?)

    5. Yeah.
      Gemworld should have Dwarves too.

  3. Gemstone Quarry
    Land - Mjne
    T:Add 1 to your mana pool.
    Tap a creature you control, T: Create a tapped Gem token.