Thursday, June 7, 2018

CCDD 060718—GDS3 Jury-Rig

Cool Card Design of the Day
For the mechanic challenge in GDS3, I built and tested a number of mechanics. Jury-Rig was my next choice. You might recognize it from 2016. Originally, Jury-Rig had a variable cost; In testing I found that having two different costs for a bunch of cards made knowing how to play your hand far too much work. So I stole the best part of another mechanic (I'll tell that story another time) and simplified Jury-Rig to always cost {3}; That way you can evaluate your hand with the costs you see printed and just one more.

Jury-Rig is quite simple. You can get your card for just {3} but you only get to use it for one turn. It appears strictly on artifacts, and primarily on expensive artifact creatures, all of which have 1+ colors.
Because Jury-Rig grants the creature haste, it looks a lot like dash. Steel Steed is a Goblin Heelcutter, except it dies at EOT instead of going back to your hand. The upside is that it only costs colorless mana to Jury-Rig, which isn't much, but the Steed is also an artifact and there are a lot of cards that reward you for playing and sacrificing artifacts. (I also didn't make Steel Steed stronger because Goblin Heelcutter is quite pushed for a common. The Steed would do fine in its context.)
Since Jury-Rig is an alternate casting cost, it interacts with casting modifiers like flash, letting Imperial Guard surprise-block an X/2.
All things be equal, Jury-Rig cards want to use death triggers rather than ETB triggers, so that players feel good about their Clockwork Confessors dying.
Using both triggers also feels good, as Cybernetic Wellspring demonstrates. Also: Jury-Rig isn't strictly limited to creature artifacts.
You're starting to notice a lot of Jury-Rig cards cost less than 3. In some cases, that's acting as a colorless back-up casting cost when you can't play your creature normally (and in Articulated Roboa's case, it gives you a bit of smoothing to help you out of that spot).
Tin Woodsman can fix your mana reliably on turn 3, or you can build it with green mana for incremental value.
And in others it's because having it enter and die in the same turn is situationally stronger. Mechanical Mage can dig you two cards closer to what you really need.
Sometimes you're Jury-Rigging just to get a haste creature with which to surprise the opponent. Hell's Servitor will rarely be blocked when your opponent doesn't see it coming.
Robo-Rover can grant itself haste on turn 2, and keep your team fast as long as it survives. Or, if you draw it late, you can Jury-Rig it to add two attackers no one saw coming.
The nice thing about death triggers over ETB triggers is that you haven't necessarily spent your mana casting a spell this turn. Volcano Golem does some great work as a 4/4 that threatens a Blaze every round. That you can Jury-Rig it on turn 10, get 4 points of hasty power, and deal ~3 damage where you please is a pretty nice option.
Scrap Shambler asks, "Why not capitalize on all those artifacts we're throwing in the graveyard?"
Jury-Rig a 3/3 for {3} or slow-cast Clockwork Hydra as an X/X for {X}{G}?
In the spots where you know you're sacrificing your Eldrazi Monument next turn anyhow, why not pay {3} instead?
As a blue-black rare, Exarch of the Singularity is all about Value, obv.
Notice how Shivan Dragon's quicksilver friend, Mercury Dragon will usually have spare {R} with which to breathe its hasty fire.
Jury-Rig is perfect on a Clone, as Shoddy Replicant shows.
Hypnotic Specter could hit on turn 2 via Dark Ritual and keep up the pressure thereafter, whereas Steel Specter can only hit on turn 3 and just once, and that's about as much a taste of that greatness as we can afford.
Who doesn't love a super-expensive artifact that gives you lots of bonuses over-time? Shrine of Ish-Behah also cycles for value in the early-game.

Of course we can specifically call out cards that have been Jury-Rigged. Clacking Shade may not be a Crypt Ripper over several turns, but it packs much more of a surprise mid- to late-game.
Vehicles are artifacts / artifact creatures. And if you're short on crew, you can Jury-Rig your Goblin Mech-Suit to work without one.
1/1 Goblin or Spark Elemental? Mechanical Goblin lets you decide.
Since it costs us a card in most cases, we really want Jury-Rig to give us a lot of value. Forcing blocks or getting your saboteur through does that for Shining Steed.
Who's got time to pay equip costs when there are opponents that need spirit-stabbing?
Jury-Rig is the marshmallow test in a lot of ways. Temporal Gate asks: Would you rather get two 1/1 fliers for {4} or a Whirlermaker for life?

Support cards
Obviously, we need a card that grants our mechanic to other cards. Academy Curator lets your Jury-Rig Mindslaver or Blightsteel Colossus, y'know, if you're into that.
"Let's launch some of that steaming scrap at the enemy.!"
{3}'s so much. Why not {2}? (Or {0} with three Desert Drakerunners.)
"It is a flaw in the design of my flesh counterparts that they cannot overload themselves to reign sweet lightning over their enemies."
Goblin Appraiser is just one example of how the set might reward casting lots of artifacts.
If you really hate how Jury-Rig isn't Dash, Persistent Mechanic makes it Dash.
As we saw in Imperial Guard with flash (and Desert Drakerunner with cost-reduction), the ability to combine Jury-Rig with other casting modifiers means we can do some pretty sideways things with the mechanic. Whiskered Fixer reanimating dead artifacts is a pretty sweet example.

Jury-Rig can go on any artifact, creature or otherwise (though its best on colored artifacts). That, combined with the casting modifiers just mentioned, makes it a very flexible permanent mechanic. When I claimed it was mostly Dash above, I omitted its subtler similarity to Morph in its ability to help you cast your cards, or how many executions will actually play a lot closer to Evoke than Dash.

I didn't submit Jury-Rig for GDS3 because it felt the least novel, but I do have a lot of faith in it as a mechanic.

Design a Jury-Rig card or support in the comments.


  1. I like the cheap ones that have a more expensive than casting cost Jury-Rig, because then it feels less like Evoke or Dash and more like a new thing.

    Sparking Robot
    Artifact Creature - Construct - U
    When ~ dies, it deals 2 damage to each creature or player that was dealt damage by ~ this turn.
    Jury-rig 3

  2. This is awesome and I love a ton of these implementations! I have some flavor complaints though. I don't think the term "jury rig" really fits - it feels like jury rigging something would bring it back from the graveyard or modify an existing thing. I love that this ability brings artifact creatures to life temporarily, like they are fickle robots. I don't think "jury rig" really justifies that, though. Jury rigging is more like Chewie fixing C3P0 than Anakin DIYing him in the garage. Right?

    So I would suggest something flavorful like "silver life" or "quickening" or something. Something that suggests you are giving these creatures the lightning of life. Bold, powerful, brief. That'll play a lot better on cards like Shining Steed and the inevitable Aetherborn with this ability. (Dude, where are the Aetherborn and Elemental Constructs with this power?!?!?!)

    Also, Robo-Rover tied my drug-addled brain in knots figuring out how best to use it. Maybe uncommon.

    1. Persistent Mechanic is Dwarf AF.

    2. I had a similar mechanic once called "erupt" for sandwurms, but I'd gone with ETB abilities instead of the variety you have and it really did just always feel like a bad deal.

    3. Quickmender
      Creature - Dwarven Artificer
      Artifact creature cards in your hand have quicksmith.
      2W, T: Exile target artifact creature you control. Return it to the battlefield under your control at end of turn. Activate this as a sorcery.

    4. Ooh, flickering is perfect!
      It's a bit of a Stoneforge Mystic to put both these effects on the same card.

    5. That's true, but it's six mana. And "Artifact creature cards in your hand have quicksmith" is already broken with Darksteel Colossus. So maybe that just shouldn't be on a card, or have an activation cost or something, rather than a static, always-on thing.

    6. Crackling Electrothopter
      Artifact Creature - Bird Elemental Construct
      1RR: Double Crackling Electrothopter’s power until end of turn. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.

      Given that elementals have evoke, I envision one of the worlds that has quicksmith would discover it simply by combining elementals with constructs, or trying to put elementals in construct cages, or some experiment like that. This is unfortunately the best implementation of that I could come up with. I just made the quicksmith and activated ability rhyme (they both sacrifice the bird) to give the creature a solid identity (it's fragile and explode-y!), I don't know if that actually adds a worthwhile tactical depth.

      Hauntech Mnemobot
      Artifact Creature - Construct Wizard
      T, sacrifice Hauntech Mnemobot: Exile another target creature card in a graveyard haunting target creature. The exiled card gains “The creature this card haunts has all the abilities of this card.”

      Another world might discover Quicksmith by combining souls with robots, and have a greater mastery of soul-o-mancy. So, soul-manipulating robots. (And is this card blue? It's probably hard to parse, too. Sorry.)

      Hauntech Obtenebrator
      Artifact Creature - Shade Construct
      When Hauntech Obtenebrator attacks, target black creature you control gains menace until end of turn.
      1B: Target black creature you control gains +1/+1 until end of turn.

      "Shade Construct" was the most unlikely creature type pairing I could think of, so of course I had to make one. I think there's a cool idea here (or possibly one or two cool ideas too many all at once), but this card has problems. It feels red because it's great at getting that damage in; it's black but it buffs allies, etc. Anyway, the Shade Construct conversation has officially started (how long can Wizards CONTINUE to ignore them?!); I'm eager to hear anyone else's contributions.

      Builder of the Old Ones
      Artifact Creature - Giant Construct
      T: Put a city counter on target land you control. For as long as that land has a city counter, it has “T: Add one mana of any color and gain 1 life.” (Cities continue to bustle after Mystic Builder leaves the battlefield.)

      The art direction here is, "Ever see Laputa, Castle in the Sky? Yeah, that." He may need vigilance to avoid the Princess Lucrezia/Riven Turnbull issue, but it felt like gilding the lily, and not super appropriate for an ancient robot. Hopefully, quicksmith here tells the story that this is an ancient bot that may only have a few more tears in rain before shutting down forever. And hopefully reach doesn't feel too kooky - it's meant to represent that this dude could build skyscrapers, and may have already done so, long, long ago.

      Zealous Collector
      Creature - Construct
      When Zealous Collector deals combat damage to a player, exile an artifact card from any graveyard as part of your collection.
      When Zealous Collector dies, draw a card for each card in your collection.

      Green? Red? Green/red? I don't know. The point is non-blue card draw, like Vomit Courier. I like the concept here a lot, but the mana cost and P/T probably need adjusting to make quicksmithing more of a choice.

      Quicksmith: good name for a killer ability. Thanks for sharing, dude!

    7. Better Builder:

      Builder of the Old Ones
      Artifact Creature - Giant Construct
      Builder of the Old Ones enters the battlefield tapped. When Builder of the Old Ones enters the battlefield, put a city counter on target land you control. For as long as that land has a city counter, it has “T: Add one color of any mana and gain 1 life.” (Cities continue to bustle after Builder of the Old Ones leaves the battlefield.)

      It's got more text so it's better!

    8. Impressive variety of directions!

      "Cities continue to bustle" is lovely.

  3. Jury-rig is such an interesting mechanic. Sure, it resembles Dash + Evoke (or unearth). But as you've shown, there are many possibilities: Making an expensive spell cheap for a turn, or powering up a weak effect.

    Actually, I have the following question: Doesn't this ability causes a sort of break in the color pie? Because cards with Jury-rig can be interpreted as "Sorceries that cost {3}". This lets them be played in any deck, giving certain colors access to effects they usually can't do: e.g. a red deck using a Reclamation sage with Jury-rig.

    Some ideas:

    Ephemeral Insurrection {5}{R}{W}
    Sorcery - Mythic Rare
    Exile all creatures. Fore each creature exiled this way, put it into the battlefield under your control, they gain Jury-rig.

    Bird of Negation {4}{U}
    Artifact Creature - Bird - Uncommon
    When ~ enters the battlefield, counter target noncreature spell if {U} was used to cast it.

    Altar of Machinations {3}{B}
    Enchantment Artifact - Rare
    If an ability you control makes you sacrifice an artifact creature, you may instead choose a nonartifact creature and sacrifice it.

    1. All the abilities you can Jury-Rig either have to be acceptable as artifact effects, or require colored mana to use.

      Bird of Negation is sweet.
      I don't understand what Insurrection giving Jury-Rig to creatures already on the battlefield accomplishes.

    2. I think to do what the author wants, Ephemeral Insurrection might be phased as:

      Exile all creatures, then return them to the battlefield under your control. For every creature returned to the battlefield this way, if it has jury-rig, it is jury-rigged. If it doesn't have jury-rig, that creature gains haste until end of turn. Sacrifice that creature at end of turn.

    3. Yeah, I intended it as a one-shot insurrection , but it desn't relate mechanically or flavorfully to Jury-rig.

  4. I'm interested since hearing how this mechanic was developed. What was the process? It has a unique combination of design restrictions and I'd like to hear how you narrowed it down. Did this start as an artifact mechanic for example, or was that the result of wanting the single colorless cost across all cards?

    1. A couple years ago, in response to Devin putting unearth on artifacts, I wrote "I wanted to find a mechanic that combined unearth with a way to get your artifact into the graveyard, like cycling."
      It was always an artifact mechanic. Originally the artifacts were mostly colorless, and the jury-rig costs were all over the place.

      The appeal in the first iteration was being able to cast a card for less in order to get an immediate benefit from it, at the cost of it being temporary. When I aligned all the Jury-Rig costs to solve the Analysis Paralysis problem, I borrowed my favorite facet of the mechanic I stole the alternate-cost-of-3-generic from: and added cards that normally cost less but you still benefit from cast for 3. Between that, looking for ways to make "throwing away your card" worthwhile, and just exploring options, I found a ton of sweet design space.