Thursday, January 4, 2018

Multiple Choice Magic Design Question of the Day 13, 14, & 15

13) What color would Holy Light be if remade today? Assume we can change "non-white" to another color exclusion.
 a) white
 b) blue
 c) black
 d) red
 e) green
 f) more than one of the above

14) Which rarity would Holy Light be if remade today?
 a) common
 b) uncommon
 c) rare
 d) mythic rare

15) Which of these changes would be most appropriate if Holy Light were remade today?
 a) Make it a sorcery.
 b) Increase its effect to -2/-2.
 c) Remove the "non-[color]" restriction.
 d) Limit its effect to creatures you don't control.
 e) Increase its colored mana requirement (from 2M to 1MM, for instance).

Click through to see the answer and my rationale.

The only good answer to 13, is C. -N/-N is almost exclusively black. You might have been tempted to choose F because it covers your bases, or because you think the "non-[color]" clause evokes a second color, but this effect really wants to be mono-black.

B is the best answer to 14. A is a weak answer, but better than C or D. Because this can kill multiple creatures (and is likey to do so when cast mid-combat), it's too swingy for common, but the effect is too small to be rare at any reasonable cost. Festergloom is Holy Light remade and it's common, but it's also a sorcery and that drastically reduces its impact on combat.

15 is much harder.

As we've just mentioned, making this a sorcery would allow it to cheaper and/or more common, but none of that is required to modernize the card.

Increasing its effect doubles its impact, making it more "worth the card" and something players might build around, but incremental effects—especially those that affect a lot of permanents—are plenty fun and interesting to work with.

Remove the color exclusion and you've got an instant Nausea, which removes the color loophole (you've still got the creatures-with-toughness-2+ loophole) that creates variance in the card's value depending on match-up. That's a small win.

As it becomes the default for lords to boost only your own team, we also see global reduction effects replaced more and more with one-sided reduction effects. It's not a rule that "everything -1/-1" can't be symmetrical anymore, but we're seeing more Cower in Fears as we move to making fewer cards that turn players off because they can hurt you too. This change would be a small win too.

Increasing the colored mana requirement is important if the card is a significant force (as it would be at -2/-2). Cower in Fear shows this is at least a possible and warranted choice at this scale, though I imagine it depends how many X/1s are in the set (and whether you card is symmetrical or not). This might be called for if we make other changes, but it's not necessary as the card stands.

The best answers to 15 are C and D. D if the remake is uncommon as #14 suggests, C if it remains common (where you interpret #15 to mean we're not changing the remake's rarity). As the difference between those choices tests only your interpretation of the test and not any Design skills, it would be counter-productive for me to treat one as better than the other (especially since the test is ambiguous).

This was an easy color pie question, a pretty easy rarity question, and a harder Design question. For the last, it's important to remember the question is asking you to make just one change, and not several. It was also important to be able to prioritize the choices by understanding their purpose.


  1. Note that you really want to do both "remove the non-color" restriction and the "make it target only creatures opponents control."

    No one would ever make a card that referred to "non-green creatures your opponents control..." as that is incredibly unwieldy.

    The "non-white" clause on the original card is actually just an old form attempt at getting at "creatures you don't control."

  2. Answers and notes, before clicking through:

    13. Easy. Mechanical color pie lists "-N/-N to their team, one-shot" as black only. C.
    14. Tough call between A and B: is this more like Festergloom (common, identical text box but sorcery-speed), or Make Obsolete / Cower in Fear (uncommon, opponents-only, instant-speed)? I'm going to go with B since potential instant-speed blowouts are a NWO red flag.
    15. There's some ambiguity here: are we assuming common or not? If assuming common then it should be A since that's literally a card (Festergloom) and none of the others is. But I think the better interpretation is not to assume common. In that case there's no pressing need to do A, B, D, or E, though all of them are possible. C, on the other hand, reflects a clear design trend (the recent move away from color hate, e.g. killing intimidate / landwalk), so I'll go with that.

    TL;DR: C, B, C.

  3. My reactions were: This is definitely ok black, so any answer excluding black is incorrect. It's potentially possible in white. White has still had this effect (or the related "creatures your opponents control" one, rather) a couple of times, but on splashy rares Crovax in time spiral time shifted, and Elesh Norn in the phyrexian set both on which have a reason to bend the pie. So I lean towards "white might get this, but only if something particular is going on with the set, and it won't get a straightforward common or uncommon, it would get something splashy".

    Also, the format of the question guides me to pick a colour, not the catchall "more than one" (I feel like, if the question were really about if it was ok in white, it would have had separate answers for black, white, black and white, and some other combinations).

    So my answer is, "black" is best answer, "more than one" is just about acceptable, anything else is flat out wrong.

    Rarity, clearly uncommon. There are a couple of uncommon cards with this effect (or the "opponent's control" equivalent) recently. It's not interesting enough for rare, and does too much to the board for common.

    Last one. When I first answered this, I said, "the right answer is to remove the colour restriction and add opponents' control, but if I have to pick one, avoiding hitting your own creatures is more important". But after reading the other answers, I'm not sure. I think what would actually happen is to make both changes. But if you're not allowed to do that, each change alone is not good: as someone pointed out, having both restrictions is just clunky. But NOT having "opponents control" isn't very acceptable either, festergloom as sorcery seems like the ONLY example in Modern. So maybe we do need one of the other examples as not-very-acceptable, but maybe more acceptable?

    1. Hmm. "Nonblack creatures you don't control" is more awkward than "[all] creatures;" I'm starting to think C beats out D.

    2. Doh! I got turned around in the counterfactuals. Yes, of course, "all creatures get -1/-1" is reasonable -- it feels like a different card to me, but it's printable.

  4. For the 3rd question (15) I interpreted it as meaning the color would not be changed and so the base spell being changed was the 2W instant -1/-1 for all nonwhite creatures. That being my perception I chose A because white is ok with mass destruction if it is balanced, and I was also thinking that white had less of a problem giving all nonwhite creatures -1/-1, which of course conflicts with the fairness sentiment I just invoked. So if I had realized the conflict in my reasoning I'm sure I would have picked C as I think the fairness aspect is far more modern than the "white is best" philosophy that white has shown in the past.