Archive for May 2012

Redesign Alpha #3: Animation   Leave a comment

“As long as enchanted artifact isn’t a creature, it’s an artifact creature”

 “it loses “enchant creature card in a graveyard” and gains “enchant creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead.” 

It’s going to be one of those weeks. This time we’re looking at a trio of cards with “Animate” in the title, although they all do quite different things. Animate Dead, Animate Artifact and Animate Wall are on the menu- and it’s a a combination of bizzarely narrow cards, really odd errataed rules text and one piece of hilarious artwork. Let’s jump right into it!

Animate Artifact

Current Oracle Text: 

So, we meet our first card that differs to what the card said originally because of updated rules- although I do like the little reminder on the original that it would destroy something with 0 as it’s CMC. (Known then as casting cost). What I do like about Alpha is that we see a lot of the top-down design that is becoming more and more popular- and this is your classic “Suit of Armour comes to life” type card that hits on a well-known trope. Sadly, the downside is that the card is just plain complicated, with it’s current form sounding very odd. I’m not 100% sure why this isn’t just “Enchant non-creature artifact” so you can remove the “As long as enchanted artifact isn’t a creature, it’s an artifact creature” text for simplicity- I’m guessing I’m either missing something, or it’s due to really weird interactions with cards like Glint Hawk Idol and Angel’s Tomb, or other cards I haven’t considered. Either way, I want to design a card that certainly reads a lot cleaner but keeps that original flavour.

Now there’s thankfully an easy fix- just do what this card was seemingly intended to do, just with cleaner rules text and adapating the mana costs. I can’t see many other angles with this card- “Animate Artifact” has to stay as a card name- so we want something that well…gets an artifact and makes it move, attack, block and so on and so forth. So the original idea stays, but we’ll use the rules text of “March of the Machines” as a template for starters:

Each noncreature artifact is an artifact creature with power and toughness each equal to its converted mana cost. (Equipment that’s a creature can’t equip a creature.)

We’ll obviously tweak that when it comes to the finished card. But what about mana-cost? 3U seems too expensive, considering that the aforementioned March of the Machines costs the same and does it for all your creatures. So we definitely want a reduction, especially considering that aura’s are quite weak and vulnerable these days, a puzzle that still seems to require some work- Totem Armor was a decent step in the right direction, though. A single blue seems like it would make it okay. Although it’s very cheap, it only scales with time- Even if you enchant something on Turn 4, it’d mostly likely only turn it into a 3/3. For our draft environment in particular, it has a fair amount of targets- but the biggest would be about a 4/4, with a lot of the artifacts wanting to tap anyway, so I feel justified leaving it at the cheap cost of U! Lastly, due to the card still being fairly complex- this will remain at uncommon. The card will go into the file for now as this:

We’re not done yet though! The combination of animation and really complicated rules text continues onward for this edition, with Animate Dead. Firstly, the original:

Animate Dead

It’s a bit weirder in ye olde rules- although bizzarely the newer version reads even crazier…

Animate Dead

Firstly, sorry for making you squint to read all that text. The original reanimate spell, Animate Dead set the trend for not only other cards, but entire styles of play. It’s an effect we want in our redesigned Alpha, but ideally we want it in a less convoluted way. Now, this is quite a simple fix in many ways- we know what we want this card to do and there are plenty of cards which have this effect, and they appear quite regularly- Unburial Rites and Rise From The Grave are two recent examples. Oddly, for such an iconic card there’s not much to say- it’s just quite clearly a design that is far too clunkier than it needs to be, purely because of how the rules have evolved and enchanting a card in one zone that makes it move to another zone is a giant headache which ends up with probably one of the wordiest cards that has seen (modern day) print. The one thing I do like about this design that I haven’t seen much of (Although I am sure they must have done it) is reanimation cards that make the creature weaker when they enter the battlefield- this is only -1/-0, but I do like that little quirk, so I want my card to have that too. For me, this leads to what I think is quite a simple card that is fairly powerful in limited, even if it isn’t making huge waves in any constructed formats…

Now, we finish off with a less complicated card but one that I would say is much more pointless, in the often-forgotten Animate Wall. Now while a seemingly needless card, this does have a rather cool upside of having one of the most hilarious Magic arts I’ve ever seen:

 Animate Wall

Just look at that. The face of the wall, the fact that is has hilarious arms and feet, and the overblown woman’s reaction- but back to the card. The new wording on this card basically states “Enchanted Wall can attack as though it didn’t have defender.” This is a card I would personally never make, because it’s essentially useless without a huge amount of walls in a set- and I’d never put a huge amount of walls in a set. However, we’re lumped with a lot of walls in Alpha. The problem I have with this card is that although there are nine walls in the set, only 4 have more than 0 power and only one is in white.  Quite a lot of the walls are double-coloured too, so it’ll be tough people to splash this in draft environment we hope to cultivate. That said, due to our “No changing the name” rule, we have very little wiggle room. So what I’ve gone for, is this:

This was an interesting one to make- I felt that using this as an enchantment was just unexciting, but turning it into a combat trick suddenly led to some potentially exciting game play- you can lure someone into a trap, or steal in for those last points of damage unexpectedly. My main draw to the design was the flavour behind it though. The wall comes alive to claim a victim is the basic theme, but the “+X, where X is the toughness” is what I really like. The strength of a wall, in real life is pretty much how tough it is- so it gets it’s toughness added to it’s strength when it comes alive. It’s a card I really like the design of and I think it may actually be relevant in draft because of the large amount of Walls. A 23rd card for sure, but it could be an interesting one.

So- there’s three more cards in the file! That’s enough of getting animated at some odd designs for now though- next time we’ll get our first glimpe of Mishra (through his Ankh), try to survive Armageddon and despite not being on Innistrad, look at channeling our inner Wolf.

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Random Card Design #13: Chaos Entity   Leave a comment

Is this card too good?

I know you’ve got soul(bond)   Leave a comment

So I’m only two weeks in, but I am a self-confessed lover of Soulbond. From the perspective of both a player and an aspiring designer, it’s my favourite mechanic of the block as a mechanic that is fun to play with that creates interesting gameplay.  Thankfully, I think they’ve found a good set for it- Avacyn Restored seems to be a slower, combat-oriented limited format, so Soulbond can show off quite a lot in the time it has- although I’m certain it will return some ways down the road. So why do I love it?

Firstly, it’s a great fit for the set it’s in. It could have fit in Innistrad or Dark Ascension, as a way to show the humans working together against the gathering hordes and would have been fine, but it works much better in Avacyn Restored. The humans are making their final push, finally driving out the horrors of the plane, so the mechanic pushes that aspect of the story- Soulbound appears mostly on humans and their guardians; some spirits, some Wolfir and not on any of the ‘bad guys’. For a set based around good triumphing, a mechanic based around working together does the trick quite nicely- two people bond to fight evil and boost each other’s talents so they can do as a team what they might not be able to do individually. A neat little quirk of what R&D has managed to do as well is make sure that the benefits of bonding suit the colours of the bonders  Green , with Pathbreaker Wurm and Druid’s Familiar, accentuates the very green core of the bond between humankind and nature flavourwise. Mechanically, they boost each other’s power. Or the humans work with an animal to gain reach, so they reach attackers in the sky,which they could not do alone. Blue’s soulbonders mostly gear towards combining for the pursuit of knowledge- Tandem Lookout and Stern Mentor accentuating this the most. Red has the very angry and passionate ‘mob mentality’ cards that give benefits like haste and firebreathing. Admittedly, White does get a bit let down in this regard which is a shame as White should really get to shine with this- but I don’t see the connection between working with someone to gain lifelink, for example.

I’m surprised it’s taken this long to have a mechanic that does this- providing the effective way of having two cards work together without the unnecessary complexity of something like Banding, possibly one of the worst mechanics ever made. In anything. Ever. But the execution here works a lot better than I first thought it would after playing with it for a couple weeks. The cards feel good to play, as they offer a benefit for what you normally want to be doing- playing more creatures. It’s very similar to landfall in that respect, that it boosts your happiness during a game, because it comes almost as standard- you’re not having to jump through awkward hoops (Fateful Hour) or having to design your deck around them (Miracles). They fit most decks the average player will use, casual or otherwise. Sure, you can get blown out with Soulbond- but at the end of the day it’s almost like having “Creature Equipment”, because you can always play more guys. It doesn’t feel like you’ve just been kicked in the nuts if it doesn’t work out as planned. It feels pretty rewarding to the other side too, when you manage to break that pair to kill one of their creatures and get ahead. Another reason I like the mechanic- unlike something like Undying, another good mechanic from this block- you never really have great moments from it. With Soulbond you get the crazy “Well, I top decked a Wolfir Silverheart and paired it with my guy to win the game the turn before I was dead!” stories, that you remember and makes Magic very rewarding to play. You just can’t create that magic with Undying.

Overall, I think it’s my favourite thing from Avacyn Restored to date. More of the same is in order I hope- simple, elegant mechanics that are fun to play with. This mechanic can and should be re-used later on and has plenty of design space still open to it in the future. Good job, WotC.