Tuesday, October 16, 2018

CCDD 101618 — Making Mischief: Trick or Treat!

Like my costume?
Cool Creepy Card Design of the Day
I'm a big fan of Halloween! So today, let's begin the fiendish festivities of the spookiest season with a mechanic celebrating it!
I've been thinking about the Deceiver cycle lately, from Champions of Kamigawa. I always felt they had promise to them, but needed a lot of polishing up. At the same time, when I was working on today's CCDD, I knew I wanted to make some Halloween-y designs! Mischief-making, then, came from the crossing of those two trains of thought. 

From the beginning, I knew I wanted my mechanic to have no 'dead surprises'. Unlike Deceivers, where you sometimes just have nothing fun that turn, my goal was to have every surprise be 'live'. The binary of 'trick or treat', then, was a perfect complement to my goals for the mechanic! 
One thing I struck upon early was that I really liked the idea of all mischief-makers sharing their surprises. In a sense, it becomes like energy in that they all utilize the same ammo, but it becomes much more interesting in that all players are never quite sure what that ammo is going to be. The opponent won't know what you have up your sleeves, and you won't know what your 'surprise' is going to be until you cast the card! That sounds pretty fun to me!

The mechanic has a lot of problems, however. The big one is obvious from the start - these are texty! Even subtracting reminder text and the like, as suggested by Reuben Covington's excellent NWO and red-flagging primer, these come out to four lines of text, which is red-flagged. Besides, just aesthetically, it's clear they're jammed into the textbox, which is no good. Even the simplest abilities demand a minimum of three lines of text.
Perhaps at common, we could care about only tricks or treats on individual cards. Not only does this reduce wordiness, it also makes for interesting drafting decisions, as you ideally want to pair together 'tricksters' and 'treatsters' in your deck to ensure you're using as many of your surprises as possible.

My major concern with this approach, however, is that you can now get 'dead' surprises. If a player only drafted tricksters, they're going to have a lot of surprises that are useless to them. My first instinct would be to give each color at common one trickster, and one treatster, with this approach.

Also, this is a good spot to note that I was very deliberate about which effects I gave to 'tricks' , and which I gave to 'treats'. Decks almost always favor nonlands, so I gave the more complicated effects that change the board state to tricks, since they'll occur less often. 
Another problem with making mischief could be its new terminology. I'm not as worried because... well, most of that terminology is just to sell the spoOOooky Halloween flavor. Above, you can see one possible way this mechanic could be adapted for 'real' Magic. Once you remove the spooOOooky Halloween flavor, it looks a lot more feasible, right? However, it does get trickier to make this treatment work with the proposed alternative of tricksters and treatsters, as the nonlands no longer have a flavorful term to make them as exciting.
One last issue with 'making mischief'' is that, unlike Deceivers, these cards eat your draws. Experienced players understand that this is really no different than if the cards were on the bottom of your library, but to any player, it'll be extremely frustrating when your bomb becomes a 'surprise' and you wish it hadn't! That inspired Witching Hour, which is a way to save your stranded surprises. However, this is just one design, and a rare one at that. Ideally, we could find an iteration of making mischief that doesn't have this frustration present on most designs.

Do you think this mechanic has potential? How would you improve it, or iterate upon it? I'd love to hear what you all think!


  1. One of the things about trick or treating, is that the person who answers the door is actually making the choice, so it makes a bit more sense for the opponent to do so. Here's a super spikey version of trick/treat:

    Choosing Trick or Treat at the beginning of upkeep is a property of the Mischievous supertype. Opponents only chose once, regardless of how many Mischievous permanents you have. Trick sets up a trigger for when a creature etbs, and is usually a larger effect since it's unknown if it will trigger. Treat is a more minor, but certain, effect.

    Goblin Visitor {1R}
    Mischievous Creature - Goblin U
    (At the beginning of your upkeep, an opponent of your choice chooses Trick or Treat. They only choose once per turn.)
    If Trick was chosen this turn, whenever a creature enters the battlefield, Goblin Visitor deals 2 damage to each opponent.
    If Treat was chosen this turn, creatures you control have +1/+0.

    Gift of the Overgrown Garden {2GG}
    Mischievous Enchantment R
    (At the beginning of combat on your turn, an opponent of your choice chooses Trick or Treat. They only choose once per turn.)
    If Trick was chosen this turn, whenever a creature enters the battlefield, draw a card.
    If Treat was chosen this turn, creatures you control get +1/+1 and Trample.

    1. I think I broke the formatting:
      1R for Goblin Visitor
      2GG for Gift

    2. I like these effects, very much along the lines of Tribute or punisher cards. Another twist:

      Candy Goblin 1R
      Creature Goblin (C)
      Trick or Treat (Before you announce this spell, an opponent chooses trick or treat.)
      Trick- Candy Goblin deals 2 damage to that player as it is cast.
      Treat- Add RRR as Candy Goblin is cast.

      This front loads the question before the opponent knows what's going to happen, which is an interesting twist on punisher. I like the surprise element of this and the original Exile mechanic.

    3. Oooh, wow, that's a real interesting idea Wobbles. I worry about whether that's a real decision, though? It feels almost like a coin flip.

    4. Oh yeah, the secret modal thing is interesting. Presumably the opponent may know which cards exist and which are common, as with choosing whether to block a morph.

      I worry about rules issues though. Can you choose which trick or treat card to play after the opponent chooses? Or do you have to designate it first? What if you designate it then can't cast it?

    5. Asking players to make uninformed decisions will make them feel bad.

    6. I don't like players having to rely on having read a Card Image Gallery to be able to play with cards, though. That's an issue I see in Morph itself, really, and this exacerbates it.

    7. If Trick and Treat are consistent (say, two +1/+1 counters or draw a card) I could see this working, maybe?

    8. As a judge, a Spike, and a troll, I predict the fun level of "guess the card before I play it" is going to rapidly break down when people are at all seriously trying to win.

    9. Maybe. I mean, Magic makes players come to uninformed decisions all the time. That's the entire play pattern behind all the hidden information in game, which usually works out on the side of fun.

      I think there is some coin flippyness there, and there's an issue with knowing all the possible cards taking away some of the tension. But my theory presupposes: maybe those kinda balance out? Linticular design wants a fun play experience for LSPs, while also rewarding experienced players for having format knowledge of what the options are. Testing would be needed

  2. Great post, Trevor. This mechanic has a lot of fun potential.

    I think your solution lies between Flare Charger and Witching Hour: Have one effect be novel and the other effect be drawing (or Maybe playing) the exiled card.

    1. Oh yeah, good idea. Although, if the mode is determined by the card, does that mean "draw" has to be the nonland mode? Does that work?

      I love the halloween flavour although I wish we could find an alternative that was flavourful but didn't need to spend text box space on defining new words.

      Trick or treat -- When this ETBs, exile the top card of your library face down.
      ????, reveal a ???? trick or treat card: ????
      ????: put a ???? trick or treat card into your hand.

      Except I can't remember the rules work like that, but something like that.

  3. I like the idea behind this a lot and I think it would be a great fit for a Halloween-themed Un-set.

    I think some clarity may be needed that revealing surprises causes them to no longer be face-down (and thus no longer surprises). As-is I could see people interpreting it as being able to reveal the same surprises over and over. Introducing four new terms (make mischief, surprise, trick, and treat) may be a bit much too, but I do love the flavor it adds to the whole process.

    From a gameplay perspective, I'd be a little worried that the card you exile as a surprise is **this close** to being in your hand before it's whisked away, never to be seen again. If I play Visitor from the Lagoon turn 2 and really need to hit my 3rd land, exiling a land as a trick will feel awful (especially since I can't even use it to loot with the ability). It's similar to milling off the top, but I think it will feel decidedly worse since most abilities that cause you look at the top card of your deck also allow you to keep it if you want (e.g. Scry).

    1. Yeah, I did have a version that looked at the top two and picked one to keep as a surprise and the other to put back on top or bottom, but that got way wordier, way faster. :( I agree that the feeling of your draws being snatched is a significant setback to the mechanic.