Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CCDD 061918—mana types

Cool Card Design of the Day
Way back when (circa GDS2) I explored the idea of new types of mana. It started with snow mana, flitted briefly through sacred mana, and ended badly at bird mana, lizard mana, beast mana, etc. It seemed like a dead-end.

Earlier this year, it occurred to me that the mistake wasn't caring about what produced the mana, but caring too specifically. First, the thing can't be parasitic, like snow or sacred were; it's got to be something Magic has a lot of. Second, it can't be so preposterously narrow as to carry about a specific sub-type. The reason being that we want to actually use our mechanic, and since we're inherently limiting ourselves to a set of mana producers much smaller than Any Land, we've got to keep the aperture open as wide as possible.

Magic has one card that's a model for this:

Remember Imperiosaur? It's printed text is "Spend only mana produced by basic lands to cast Imperiosaur." There's no reason we can't stick to that wording, but I reframed it here, to familiarize ourselves with the idea of mana having a number of possible qualities. Mana usually has a color, but can also be colorless (and technically multi-colored). If it's produced by a snow permanent (like Arctic Flats or Boreal Druid), it's snow mana ({S}). I'm not doing anything functionally new above, just using the same model to suggest that mana produced by a basic land is 'basic mana.' With that concept in place, what other kinds of mana can we care about?
It's not great for the mechanic that most creatures that produce mana are green, but nonetheless there are a lot of these (170?), at least one in probably every set.
Artifacts also tend to produce mana pretty commonly (166?).

Basic mana, creature mana, and artifact mana are the only types of mana I can imagine caring about right now. Other card types don't produce mana often enough (sorcery and instant add up to 37 ever, enchantments less and planeswalkers far less). You could potentially care about legendary mana (65) but that's still narrow for my taste. One benefit of legendary is that it appears on a bunch of different card types, including actual lands.

The next question is how to use special mana types. Imperiosaur requires basic mana (just as Kozilek, the Great Distortion requires {C} and all colored creatures require mana of their color) and that's an option but it's not one I'd expect to see on more than a handful of rares throughout Magic's life. For the Spirits above, I let the mana count double. That's fairly intuitive.
We can also simply check to see if the special mana was used and reward it.
Or we can measure how much of the special mana was used and offer a scaling reward.

I believe the design space for creature mana and artifact mana is quite limited, for much the same reason there were so few cards with {C} in the mana cost. We could definitely create a set with lots of non-land producers of the type we're supporting but realistically we're still maxing out at about six common mana dorks / rocks and a fractional as-fan.

Design a creature/artifact mana card in the comments.


  1. Myr Superion 2
    Artifact Creature Myr R
    Spend only creature mana to cast Myr Superion.

    How about this:

    Ancestral Scribe 1U
    Creature - Wizard U
    U, T: Draw a card and then discard a card. If Historic mana was spent to activate this ability, draw three cards instead.

    1. I think Myr Superion is green (though there's an argument for keeping it colorless).

      Historic mana works! There's even one (terrible) Saga that makes mana.

    2. Jay, just so you know. Myr Superion is an actual card. Wobbles just re-templated it to fit your suggestion here.

    3. Haha. Oh, right. I thought that was a sweet name. Thanks.

      I still think it's arguable whether huge-creature-for-a-little-tricky-mana isn't inherently green, but I get why a cycle of 5+ mana-producing artifact creatures led to Myr Superion. Eldrazi have also gotten this identity, so I guess it's green/colorless?

  2. Just as you said Jay, space is rather limited and also, having to track which mana was produced with what is rather tiring (this happened to me in a game playing with Kruphix, God of Horizons, as it turns out that when the mana in your pool becomes colorless it doesn't lose its restrictions.)

    Disciple of the Wilds
    {2}{G}{G} - Common (?)
    Creature - Human
    When ~ enters the battlefield, if you used Creature mana to cast it, you may have it fight target creature an opponent controls.
    not sure if too good at common. Has obvious as-fan implications.

    Glorious Triumph
    Sorcery - Mythic rare
    If you used land, creature and artifact mana to cast this spell, you win the game.

    Interestingly enough, more than restrictions on the mana to use. RnD prefers to make mana producers that make conditional mana. Feels like the other side of the coin.

    1. Kruphix, God of Horizons is a different story than the above because it's causing mana to stick around. Normally you spend mana as soon as you make it.

      I doubt Disciple of the Wilds is common, but I love it otherwise.

      I like where you're going with Glorious Triumph, but I think it would at least be an enchantment that waits one turn to win.

  3. Elope
    Sorcery - Rare
    Gain control of target creature until end of turn.
    If you spent creature mana to cast ~, gain control of that creature instead. (This effect doesn’t end at end of turn.) Untap it. It gains haste until end of turn.

    1. Interesting. "Creature mana makes you better at creatures." I'm not entirely sold, but it's definitely worth discussing/trying.

  4. The problem I have at first glance with "if you spent creature mana to cast ~" is that it's pretty heavily A+B and snowbally. It's already great to cast my 4 drop on turn 3 with a mana dork, do I really need extra incentive for doing so?

    I think artifact mana has the most potential, and the first path I'd like to explore is activated abilites that can only be activated using artifact mana. Some ideas:

    Pristine Pendant (Common)
    T: Add C.
    1: Gain 1 life. Spend only artifact mana to activate this ability. (Any mana created by artifact sources is artifact mana. Mana created by CARDNAME is artifact mana.)

    Five Suns' Filter (Rare)
    T: Add C.
    Artifact mana can be spent as though it was mana of any color.

    Myr Whisperer (Uncommon)
    Creature - Human
    1W: Create a 1/1 Myr artifact creature token. Spend only artifact mana to activate this ability. (Any mana created by artifact sources is artifact mana.)

    Chrome Rootwalla (Common)
    Creature - Beast
    G: CARDNAME gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Spend only artifact mana to activate this ability. Activate this ability only once per turn.

    Chrome Sparksmith (Uncommon)
    Creature - Human Artificer
    R, T: Deal 1 damage to any target. Spend only artifact mana to activate this ability.

    Chrome Aerosmith (Common)
    Creature - Vedalken Artificer
    U: CARDNAME gains flying until end of turn. Spend only artifact mana to activate this ability.

    Chrome Mox #2 (Mythic)
    1: Add CC. Spend only artifact mana to activate this ability.

    The set would have the full cycle of mana Myr, and perhaps ETB tapped artifact lands (dual-color or just worse OG artifact lands, I'm not sure).

    1. Five Suns' Filter is great.

      I dig this approach. It was smart to include colored mana in all the costs so people aren't asking why it's not just {C}.

      Chrome Mox #2 feeds itself.

    2. Oops, there's supposed to be a tap on Chrome Mox #2.

    3. These all look like great designs! Off Jay's comment "It was smart to include colored mana in all the costs so people aren't asking why it's not just {C}":

      These designs actually do feel similar to colorless (& somewhat snow) activated abilities. I think that is just where the mechanic will end up - a mix of artifact mana producers & sinks to spend them on. Which is fine! Requiring colored mana actually seems tricky to me though - as now for instance Pristine Pendant isn't activating my abilities. So everything you print to help pay for these abilities is also going to want to add multiple colors and it may be harder to keep the set from being artifact + 5 color soup.

    4. Yeah, I felt they were pretty similar to colorless/snow as well. My initial hope was that the cycle of Myr, an uncommon cycle of artifact lands, and a few other cards spread out here and there would all be helpful. Prophetic Prism in particular seems to fit this very well, and I like that it feels clever to use filtering to make regular mana into artifact mana.

      Pristine Talisman was an odd mix of generator and spender of artifact mana. It doesn't pay for some of these colored abilities, but some like Myr Whisperer would have colorless in their mana costs as well (probably not at common, though).

  5. What if you use artifact/creature/sorcery mana to show separation from the land?

    Floodweave Navigator 3U
    Creature - Human Rogue
    Adrift (When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if nonland mana was spent to cast it, put a -1/-1 counter on it and it has flying.)
    When Floodweave Navigator deals damage to an opponent, draw a card.

    Alternative wording, in case you want other -1/-1 counters in the set to enable it:

    Kiting Bomber 2BR
    Creature - Human Pirate
    Adrift (If nonland mana was spent to cast this, it enters the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter on it. It has flying as long as it has a -1/-1 counter on it.)
    When Kiting Bomber enters the battlefield, it deals 2 damage to target creature without flying.

    1. Nonland mana is great! That's probably the only version that goes on more than a few random rares.

      I'm less enthusiastic about putting -1/-1 counters on my creatures. I get that you're probably cheating your creature out and you get flying, but this is not sending a clear signal about whether we're rewarding or punishing nonland mana.

    2. I experimented with an extremely similar mechanic:

      Gilded Knight {2}{W}
      Creature - Human Knight
      When Gilded Knight enters the battlefield, if you splurged on it, put a +1/+1 counter on it. (You've splurged on a spell if you spent mana from a nonbasic source on it.)

      It could also go on noncreature spells, if we remove the automatic +1/+1 counter, and just have the card check if it was 'lavished'. The idea of this mechanic that it worked with all nonland sources, but it also worked with nonbasic lands.

      Just making it "nonland mana" lets us push it a lot more, which is fun. I also like the potential flavor of 'nonland' a lot.

    3. Yeah, and I think we don't want to reward nonbasic lands too much.

    4. Definitely agreed. This is a much better iteration.

    5. I do wish there was something in between the feel-bad of the -1/-1 counter and the always-a-big-upside of the +1/+1 counter. If we could just say "put a float counter on it and it gains flying" that would at least remedy the memory issue, though it'd be nice if there was a generic non-stat creature counter that could be used for flexible but resonant flavor throughout a a set (like time counters in time spiral, for instance.)

    6. "Flying markers", maybe? If we were to make a marker for any keyword, flying would probably be the best one.

    7. I wonder if 'markers' shouldn't be an official thing, distinct from counters and tokens. They would denote status that is binary rather than cumulative.

    8. We already have some precedence in Exerted markers, and we know they can be provided in packs with the current printing technology.

      Sounds like a better idea than counters that do nothing like on Isareth the Awakener from M19.

    9. Corruption marker (to denote creatures tainted by an ability), float marker (to denote permanent flying gained, maybe even something like an "iron marker" to denote (has permanently become an artifact) are all things I could imagine a set wanting/using while still flavorful. Of course, probably one per set for simplicity's sake.

    10. Exerted markers don't exist in the rules, but the fact that they were provided physically is a step in the right direction and makes retrofitting markers into the game easier.