Wednesday, October 13, 2021

MOXTOBER - Thirteen: Luck and Solitaire Games

Wobbles the Goose


It’s #MTGMoxtober! A month of design prompts for the Magic creatively inclined. Today is October Thirteenth, which means fittingly that the prompt for today is 13.

For today’s prompt, I’ve created a solo puzzle game based on Triskaidekaphobia. The goal is to lose to Triskaidekaphobia while using a 13 card deck before losing to damage or running out of cards. Sounds easy enough! You can use the solo play mode on manastack to give it a try here:

Or you can build the deck using this list:

1 Swamp
1 Godless Shrine
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Scoured Barrens
1 Dross Harvester
1 Cloistered Youth
1 Tavern Swindler
1 Death Grasp
1 Sign in Blood
1 Renewed Faith
1 Fountain of Youth
1 Mana Crypt
1 Triskaidekaphobia


I was a big fan of Maro’s Magic the Puzzling book back in the day, so this is an attempt to combine that with the recent trend of Button Shy’s solo microgames. With only 13 cards to work with, the goal is to create enough variance where a player still has agency to make interesting decisions, while not becoming deterministic or too easy. More play testing is needed to see if this particular build strikes the right balance. Will the use of coin flip cards and mana variance be fun or do they leave players feeling unsatisfied and unlucky when they lose to a coin flip? Give it a playtest and let me know how it goes! Do you have any custom designs that would be a good fit? Any luck with other solo Magic variants?

 You can find me on Twitter @wobbles 
Or in the Beacon of Creation discord
Or on my Tumblr where I post other small and cheap game design ideas:

Honk! Honk!


  1. I playtested this tonight:
    50% of the lands ETB tapped, so having Mana Crypt in your opening hand becomes extremely important. Games where you don’t have it early are mostly impossible to win. But even when you do have it, things are tough. If you have it on T1 you’ll have 2B to spend, but only the Tavern Swindler or maybe Cloistered Youth can be cast. Those ETB lands also mean you often only have 2B to spend on turns 2 or 3. Sign in Blood and Dross Harvester both have BB in their mana cost, so getting them on curve is hard. Maximizing the mana of your seven turns, are overall very difficult. With fewer options, it’s hard to feel like I have a lot of control over the outcome.
    The coin flipping also takes too much control away. You need the Mana Crypt to have enough acceleration to win in seven turns, but the earlier you get it, the more turns it has to wreck your plans. You have way more control over Tavern Swindler, but the swing in life if you don’t get the flip result you want is hard to recover from. Several times, it boosted my life at a bad time, and the only way I had to get it back down involved activating it again and hoping it didn’t gain me even more life.
    The one turn delay between casting Cloistered Youth and when it can start plinking away at your life feels like an eternity.
    Sign in Blood and Renewed Faith are actually bad, because card draw just accelerates you towards death. I wanted library manipulation way more than the draw.
    Sign in Blood and Death Grasp being Sorcery speed often made them irrelevant. I needed more life interaction during the upkeep step.
    Death Grasp seems really weird to me. Only once did I have enough mana and a suitably small creature where I could target the creature to trigger Dross Harvester’s life gain ability. Otherwise it just wants me to overpay to kill my useful creatures to gain some life.
    Fountain of Youth doesn’t cut it in the deck. Pay 2 for 1 life is a bad investment. Mana is so awkward I really never get to use it more than once a game. Most of the time I played it out of my opening hand and it just sat on the board unused.
    I also playtested with some substitutions that lead to more interactive games and made winning easier.
    Cloistered Youth -> Zombie Cutthroat
    Renewed Faith -> Lose Hope
    Sign in Blood -> Street Wraith
    Tavern Swindler -> Icatian Moneychanger
    Death Grasp -> Culling the Weak
    Fountain of Youth -> Ghost-Lit Redeemer

  2. This is really helpful feedback! I like these changes a lot. The other concern that was raised was if the line of Mana Crypt> lose two flips> Trisk is just too strong to consider doing much else.