Sunday, May 13, 2018

CCDD 051318—New Rebel

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/13/2018 - The rebel mechanic is broken because it's card advantage, card selection, repeatable and grows exponentially. If we were remaking it today, what would it look like?

There are two obvious changes to make:

First, each rebel card can only get one more rebel. That still lets you chain rebels every turn, and that's still very powerful. We're just not letting a single card lead into a situation that's netting you 2-3+ cards every round.

Second, replacing deck-searching with limited browsing both speeds up the gameplay, and incents players to play more rebels, rather than just a few silver bullets.

From there, we've got options:

Should it be a keyword or ability word? As long as the effect is the same—"browse for a Rebel with CMC N+1" in this case—every time, and we're printing it on 6+ cards, it should be a keyword.

Should the keyword be rebel-specific or open-ended? It's easier and more concise to have Take Up the Banner only ever find rebels, but if the mechanic's worth doing, maybe it's worth doing in other tribes. Above, I have it find any card that shares a type with your creature, but maybe the effect is niche enough we don't need that.

Should it be an ETB effect, a death effect, or something else that only happens once? I went for ETB above because it's the first place to explore for happens-once-on-a-creature abilities, but I'm already seeing both mechanical and thematic arguments for making it a death trigger.

Should the effect require an optional cost? Again, I just did the fastest thing above and made it free and automatic, but if Take Up the Banner is going to net us cards, that's going to add ~2 mana to every creature it goes on, making them all look weak. If it's a kicker effect, though, we can make decent looking creatures and let players pay extra when they can.

I wouldn't put monstrosity on rebels, but a one-time, mana-activated ability like that could also be a great option here.

The card advantage we're seeing preserves a lot of the danger from the original mechanic. Rebels aren't growing exponentially anymore, but you're still getting a stream of new rebels for each one you draw and play normally. It would be much safer just to offer the consistency of card selection.

Should we preserve the converted mana cost limitation? I did above because that was so central to the original mechanic, but looking at it again, switching from search to browse, and not putting the card directly into play means CMC isn't necessary.

Speaking of which, should the new mechanic put rebels directly into play? Not unless there's a real cost to doing so and it's appropriate to the cards we're getting. I'm strongly inclined not to do that.

Here's a nearly opposite build:

I'm happier with this execution. It's shorter, which is important because it's still pretty wordy for a common mechanic. It still supports rebel tribal in a significant and unique way, but it's not so strong that we have to give it an unattractive rate.


  1. At a glance, I like the gameplay of the first card. It feels really exciting and fun to me, in a similar space to cascade. Im actually pretty intrigued by this effect on the first iteration in a general as a white card advantage tool.

    I have to wonder in general if this is something that should be keyworded. Would a set really want that much of this that it would have the volume needed to do so? If guess it could since rally was keyworded but an issue with this would be if there's tons of dies triggers, board state could get annoying to track.

    I think the flavor of the new rebel mechanic is quite different than the old one as well. Not a bad thing, just an acknowledgement. I actually think it's a little cooler, with the idea that when your creature dies you can search a for a rebel to take up it's cause.

    1. Also, I think I would allow the second iteration to go to hand. Dies triggers don't necessarily have to be hit as hard with a nerf to stats as an etb trigger with potential card advantage. I think for example a 2/1 that digged for 1 would be fair cost, but that's off the top of my head. It just feels a little unusual to have a lot of stacking, and the gameplay gets weird when there's multiples on board. It seems kind of lame that if you play a lot of rebels that if more than 1 gets nuked you either have to stack yourself or choose not use more than one.

    2. Multiple death triggers only ending up with one rebel on top of your library would suck. Good point.

    3. I would definitely keyword, with something like 'Recruit a Rebel' (look at the top 5 cards of your library. You may reveal a rebel from amount then and put it into your hand, then put the rest in the bottom in any order.)

      Recruit can function with a modified, and allows more flexibility. I like it a little more than 'Recruit' (look at 5, you maymay rev a card that shares a creature type with this card and put it into your hand, rest on bottom)

      I like that you can also do a tribe pair like in the current Eternal set. Eternal (magic-like digital card game, it's great, and I recommend it to anyone) has a tribal set where one of the tribes is actually a paired tribe (two synergistic creature types). The first recruit template gives more flexibility for this pair style, which makes the limited format a bit deeper too.

  2. Rebels are interesting to me, mostly because I've never really understood them. I didn't play at that time, so I've really only experienced them in hindsight. I didn't quite get why Blightspeaker was a Rebel or how he connected with any of the other Rebels. Why can a Falcon be a Rebel? Why do Rebels find other Rebels?

    A mechanic like Take Up the Banner seems like it could realistically fit equally well for Allies as it could for Rebels, so to me it's not very evocative. Flavorfully, I feel like Rebels wouldn't necessarily be labeled as such and wouldn't just find other Rebels. A successful rebellion recruits civilians to the cause, it's not an inbred collection of people who label themselves a certain way. I'd like to see something like:

    Join The Cause - When this enters the battlefield, look at the top 5 cards of your library. You may reveal a card among them with base power and toughness equal to this card's power and toughness and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library.

    The idea being that you can recruit "like-minded" (represented by similar power/toughness) individuals to join the rebellion.

    1. Who's to say the rebels you recruit weren't ordinary citizens before you recruited them, and that it was the act of recruiting them that turned them into rebels?

    2. Totally could be, the flavor of them just never resonated with me strongly. If I was a part of the game/story when the Rebels were a thing, I'd probably think completely differently. A lot of people seem to really like Rebels, so I may very well be trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist.

  3. I'm partial to the second version. First, it feels thematically resonant with the idea of the rebel, where self-sacrifice helps feed the cause. It feels thematically white in a way that's different from the typical martial themes in the color.

    Second, putting it as a death trigger also nudges players into a style of deck. It's not just about having a bunch of rebels in your deck. Making it a death trigger signals to players that these rebels are meant to played in a particular way. I could see it in a white/red aggro deck where you don't care as much if they die and trades even work to your advantage. Or there could be a desperate white/black deck where you're the one sacrificing your rebels to achieve more significant gains.

    But then, ultimately, I think it's actually a false choice. Sometimes mechanics in a set can be in both an ETB trigger and a death trigger. Maybe you'll actually want to do both and then design with an eye on what types of playstyle each rebel fits into.

  4. Rebel Campaigner 1R
    Creature - Human Rebel
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, recruit 3. (Look at the top three cards of your library. You may reveal a creature card from among them and put it on top of your library. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.)

    It's "scry, but more limited", but I think there's room for that, as it does play very differently from scry, especially at numbers higher than 1, while still being deck smoothing (and potentially being available to different colors at different rates as a result). Since it's not card advantage, we can cost it more competitively.

    You can even make a buildaround with a "Whenever you recruit," ability, and just put this on Rebel & rebel-themed spells in its first set, without having to limit the searches and name Rebels in every textbox itself.

    1. Not bad. I'm tempted to make it more like scry by letting you put the dregs on "top or bottom."

    2. What about an Explore for creatures?

      Reveal the top card of your library. Put that card into your hand if it’s a creature. Otherwise, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature, then put the card back or put it into your graveyard.

  5. If it's an ETB trigger, I think "Call to Arms - Rebel" or "Call to Rebels" might be a little more thematic, and if a death trigger, "Rebel Martyr". That makes them juicy and fun to say and also leaves the type modular.

  6. The mechanical baggage tied to the Rebel creature type is a bit odd. From a flavor perspective, I was really hoping to see the Rebel creature type in Aether Revolt on some Revolt cards. I don't think there is a need for the creature type to have a unifying mechanic. I was also surprised we didn't see any in Dominaria.

    That said, if we assume Rebels need a similar mechanic to their initial execution, I like what's being done here. I like the second variant the best. I would probably lean toward broader templating:

    "When ~ dies, recruit a Rebel. (Look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a Rebel card among them and add it to your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.)"

    I reduced it to four cards, since that is what Ripple used, and since it's being added to your hand now. A smaller pile also supports the cards on bottom being in any order rather than a random order.