Archive for the ‘design’ Tag

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.


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.

Redesign Alpha #3: Total Recall   2 comments


So, here we are. Only two cards in and I find myself looking at our first member of the Power Nine- and making the same face as the man in the art. It’s probably one of the harder of the Power Nine to tackle, but I’ll give it a fair shot anyway. How do we make “Draw Three Cards” powerful enough to print without neutering it too much? I still want the card to have that va va voom, but just without the soulcrushing power it entails. So, the challenge here is steep- I have a feeling we might be revisiting this one later on. But for now, let’s explore what we can do.

The first step I’m taking is to remove the “Force opponent to draw three” part of the card. I agree with Zac Hill when he said that most of the time, card draw should not be targeted. (This was part of an excellent debate between him and MaRo- Zac’s side being found here.) I don’t like the clause as it is very often irrelvant and for the newer player, it just seems confusing- or could even be missed altogether and I agree with the assesment that a lot of the time it gives ‘false choice’ when the majority of Magic is player one-on-one. Secondly, from an aestehtic point of view, less text is always pleasing and makes the card read cleaner.

Setting out with this card- I want to find a way to keep the “U, Draw Three” with no drawback template. Yeah, I’ve set the bar pretty high. Two of the cards that do this currently have seen bannings in one or more formats- Ancestral Recall in everything bar Vintage (Where it’s still restricted) and Ancestral Vision, which is banned in Modern, and still good in Legacy. The most recent attempt as it stands is Visions of Beyond- which came with the rather steep cost of having 20 cards in somebodies graveyard, which is quite hard to achieve- no deck coming out of Innistrad block has yet made that dream work. I’m hoping that my version of Ancestral Recall can still be good enough to see play, but without dominating the format it is in.

My first step was to look at what draw three’s have worked in the past, what impact they had and what we can learn from them. We’re just looking at ones that allow the drawing of three cards, with [u]no[/u] discarding them afterwards. My reasoning behind this is the Draw X, Discard X has been done to death and I’m looking for our Ancestral to be fairly unique. Our first stop is Shared Discovery:

Shared Discovery

I started playing Magic during Zendikar block and this didn’t even register with me while I’ve been thinking about this until I went searching on gatherer. Oddly enough, I think this card has the potential to be extremely powerful- I’m not the biggest expert, but if this were legal now I’d be sliding a couple into Delver decks just because of the potential with Lingering Souls. However, this card made minimal impact, because generally blue doesn’t have four creatures walking around- and due to the sorcery speed, you would often find yourself opening the door to your opponent getting in a lot of damage. Prehaps we could drop the amount of creatures needed for this one and see if it has potential.

One thing I do like about this clause is that tapping creatures to draw cards feels good flavourwise for “Ancestral Recall”, as it feels as if you’re tapping into the knowledge of the creatures you control. In terms of gameplay though, it feels like it could get a bit messy, as this essentially halves the cost from Shared Discovery and because there are blue decks in which you can get two creatures out quite quickly, this could be a very early play, without needing to worry about the downside of taking lethal when you have no blockers. Even if this were printed now, it would probably be an issue. Turn One Delver, Turn Two Delver, draw three. Maybe the downside could be bigger? One thing I might toy with is tapping the creatures and then having them not untap during the next untap step to extend the drawback and see if that feels like it could balance things out. I’ll add that one to the maybe pile- for now, this probably won’t be what we choose going forward though.

So, what else is an acceptable drawback for drawing three cards?

How about losing a turn?

I’m honestly not sure how to evaluate this as a card. Would it be too good? Not good enough? Depending on when you play it, the impact of the effect varies- the earlier it is, the less you might get punished for it- but later on, can you afford to give your opponent a turn’s worth of time? Essentially you would draw 3- but you also give them an extra card drawn, an extra turn to attack…I certainly think it would be playing around in some quirky design space. It’s an interesting trade-off and what I like to see in a card- something that evolves as the game continues.

This one also intrigues me- you get more cards, but they get to develop their mana quicker and will be casting better spells sooner. Is the swing too much to risk it? What if it was 1 land they got to put in, would it then be an acceptable trade-off? I think two works. The nuance in this is that the card might be a huge risk in the early game- to put your opponent that far ahead on mana…but in the late game, where each player might have more mana then they need already, you draw three and the only benefit for them is to thin their deck a little. I think it could be a rather clever card in the right environment.

At the moment, my two picks for the file are the “Draw 3, Opponent Gets 2 Land” and the” Time Walking yourself” options. Now, I can always come back and change this, but for now I’m going for the Time Warp version. I’ll be sharing this with any readers out there, those who follow me on Twitter and the MTG Reddit. I’ll see what they say and go on from there!

This has been quite lengthy- I don’t intend on giving each card it’s own article. Next week I’ll be getting very animated tackling a trio of cards that do the same thing, but they’re all very different- Animate Artifact, Animate Dead and Animate Wall.

Random Card Design #12: Hangover   Leave a comment

A bit of fun, here. Don’t drink and draft, folks.

Random Card Design #10: Weeping Song   Leave a comment

Been listening to a bit of Nick Cave, hence this!

Posted April 13, 2012 by drafterildal in Card Designs

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Redesign Alpha #2: Air we go…   Leave a comment

So, after a long look at Alpha on Gatherer, that ran through at least one box of tissues as I wept at the task ahead, what became apparent is that there are quite a few problems facing me in this task. I’ll lay out a couple in this week’s entry, but others will flare up at times. Still, c’est la vie, restriction breeds creativity…

Can you count to (Power) 9?

Not just the Power Nine, but a whole host of other extremely powerful cards- Armaggedon, Balance, Control Magic, Counterspell, Dark Ritual, Demonic Tutor, Mana Vault, Mind Twist, Sinkhole, Sol Ring, Swords to Plowshares, Time Vault and Wheel of Fortune are all going to be running around, some of which wouldn’t see print today for their strength, but even discounting that- some could have an extremely adverse effect on our proposed draft format. However, I still want the cards to have that special feeling- I’m aiming for Black Lotus to still be a popular, sought after card- just without it being as powerful as it is.

Thankfully, unlike Richard Garfield, I will have the added benefit of several years of Magic Development to give me some insight into how to tweak these cards to make them fair and fun, although I’ll be eagerly trying a lot of different things. Keeping cards within their great heritage and the bounds of fairness will be key to a successful redesign, so the power 9 and friends will most likely be receiving most of my attention.

Another obstacle during the redesign is that some cards, while not totally overpowered- are too powerful for their commonality. Disintergrate, Fireball, Pestilence and Sinkhole are main offenders for being really out of place, but there are others, which we will have to revise and rejiggle around to not only make the cards fair, but balance out removal at certain rarities for our draft format. Most of the uncommons are seemingly just shoved in there for something that may have seemed correct before, but in the modern era, doesn’t fit at all. Rares vary from correct (Birds of Paradise) to bizzare (Elvish Archers- a 1/2 First Striker for 1G).  It will be interesting to tweak this- remember, one rule is to keep the same amount of commons, uncommons and rares.

So Much Hate

Now, I appreciate the necessity of hate cards, as they’re part of the fabric of Magic. That said, they got off to a very rough start in Alpha, generally being too frequent, too punishing and plain miserable. Obviously, that can be corrected- but the issue for us will be to have these hate cards not only be unoppressive, but to retain the flavour of their original card names.

The main problem is that the colour-hate cycle is a bit too overboard on cards of the mass land destruction variety, which never makes for a fun playing environment, so there will be heavy changes to those. There’s also a few more “troll” cards running around that will need changing- Gloom, which makes White spells cost 3 more. Not fun, and not conducive for the draft environment we want to foster. Even worse is Lifeforce, a GG enchantment that for GG, counters any black spell, which is not only a horrible card for play but just all over the place colour pie wise. This will be something that we need to tackle.

The Power Nine…walls

There are nine walls in Alpha. This is going to be a problem, because there’s not much I can do with a card name that has “Wall” in it. The problem I have with Walls is that the more there are in a set, the more boring gameplay will be. Sitting behind walls has it’s purposes, but it’s not particularly fun for the players on eitherside. Making these walls flavourful, playable and something that doesn’t drive you into boredom will be a fun little challenge. By no means the biggest, but I feel it’s worth it’s own mention.

So, let’s look at our first card in the set. It’s Air Elemental!

Air Elemental

So, we’re getting off to a solid start on this project by having one of the better designed cards in the set that still holds up today- while not being a particularly interesting card. It’s been reprinted 17 times, with the most recent being M10- and it’s not hard to see why. It’s simple, carries the flavour of blue and can be a strong uncommon in Draft formats that is fair and balanced.

Air Elemental, alongside pretty much every other blue creature in Alpha is something that is not particularly tangible- creature types include Clones, Djinns and Phantasms. It sets a tone that has kept with blue for all of Magic’s history- dealing mostly in conjured creatures, rather than natural ones. The only exceptions to this in Alpha are Prodical Sorcerer, a Wizard- also a natural fit for blue, two Merfolk cards and a ship – which are fine- because considering you’re setting the colour out with “Islands” as it’s source of mana, having creatures that live in or on water seems more than acceptable.

We also get our first taste of blue’s role in gameplay – having a route of attack consisting of smaller, lesser numbers- but with evasive abilities.  Air Elemental is a card that needs an answer fairly quickly, particularly with a lack of fliers and creatures with reach in the set- but doesn’t get it done in a couple turns, allowing opponents time to find an answer, or a way to win before the elemental gets them to zero.

For now, the verdict is that Air Elemental goes into our Redesigned Alpha file unchanged.