Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 6 of 6

The last post in this 6-part postapalooza about the GDS2 cycle design test. Be sure to read all 5 preceding parts!

Jonathan's cards:

Common Cycle

CW01: Farmer's Charm
Choose one - Put a 1/1 white Citizen creature token onto the battlefield; or search your library for a Plains card, reveal it, put it into your hand, and shuffle your library; or gain 2 life.

Excellent flavor! I like this charm quite a bit. (Even if it does plainscycle a little cheaply - development's problem!)

CU01: Scholar's Charm
Choose one - Untap target creature; or target creature gains shroud until end of turn; or draw a card.

Unlike the white one, which has splendid flavor, this reads like a pile of very unrelated abilities to me. Try again.

CB01: Smuggler's Charm
Choose one - Return target Mercenary card from your graveyard to your hand; or target creature gains Intimidate until end of turn; or you gain one Gold counter. (Gold counters may be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

How is intimidate peaceful and utopian? I'm very glad you put a Gold counter here, as missing that opportunity (to vary up a charm with the set's thematic counter mechanic) would have been sad. This, of course, assumes that the Gold mechanic works out overall, but I think it has potential, though I have not spent time playtesting it.

CR01: Flameweaver's Charm
Choose one - Destroy target non-creature artifact; or add RR to your mana pool; or target creature gets +2/+0 until end of turn.

No damage? I guess that's not utopian, but I'm weaving flame here! Seems like an okay card for the cycle.

CG01: Hunter's Charm
Choose one - You may put a land card from your hand onto the battlefield; or target creature must block this turn if able; or put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.

When do hunters ramp mana? That's for scout's and explorers. Must block is hunterish, so that's good, +1/+1... is just green. I guess it's okay.

The white charm set my expectations for flavor so high that the other cards couldn't meet it. I can't hold that against you, but it would have impressed me a lot if they were all as good.

Uncommon Cycle

UZ01: Anunnaki Eraser
Creature - Anunnaki
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, exile another target permanent. Return that card to the battlefield under its owner's control at the beginning of the next end step.

There are so many worms in this can that I can barely see the card. I like what you wrote in justification of the hybrid cards - they are the invaders of the world, and being hybrid sets them apart from the mono-colored inhabitants. It might work. The better the card designs are, the more likely the judges will let you get away with it. On to this card in particular...

Why does this have flash? I am suspicious that you are one of those players. The kind that puts flash on everything, makes too many instants, and who loves combat damage using the stack. This card could be done without flash. In other news, it costs an awful lot for a 1/4 with a conditional ability (compare to the very recent Glimmerpoint Stag). Finally, why is the requirement based on a brand-new creature type? Stop inventing wacky creature types. It's not your place (they have a whole creative team for that) and it makes your designs read much worse. Now for the hybridness test: this could be done as a white card, check. But as a blue card? I'm not so sure. In total, this card is a failure.

UZ02: Anunnaki Infiltrator
Creature - Anunnaki
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, remove all counters from target permanent or opponent.

I get that the Annunaki are the invading creature type, but you could pick any existing creature type for the invaders and just be sure not to have any of those type in the native creatures. Aside form that, this card is much better than the previous design. I am suspicious of the "or opponent" part of the wording. You want to remove Gold counters, right? I would say "or player" and have it work for poison too. More likely, you could just say "target permanent" and not worry about the interaction with infrequently appearing counter types. I am curious how the judges will react to this one. Hybridness? I think Blue and Black can both do this, so it should be okay.

UZ03: Anunnaki Lacerator
Creature - Anunnaki
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, Anunnaki Lacerator deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

A fine card... for Red. This is not acceptable as a Black card, and hybrids have to be able to exist in both mono-colors. Hybrid cards are hard to design!

UZ04: Anunnaki Ravager
Creature - Anunnaki
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, destroy target land.

I was beginning to worry you wouldn't have any that I could simply accept. This one is fine.

UZ05: Anunnaki Purifier
Creature - Anunnaki
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, destroy target artifact or enchantment.

No real issues here (other than the creature type problem I discussed above). Solid card idea.

Rare Cycle

RW01: Majority Rule
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control at least ten more creatures than each of your opponents, you win the game.

I don't like whole cycles of alternate win conditions. I don't like seeing them more than once per block. For this card in particular, compared to the very similar Epic Struggle, 10 seems a little too low. You have to be very careful when handing out game wins. Being not very original and not quite in the right place, this card does not make me very happy.

RU01: Omniscience
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have fifteen or more cards in your hand, you win the game.

That's a little more interesting. You have to find a way around the hand-limit rule (Spellbook) and then draw and hold a lot of cards. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of things an opponent can do with an average deck to stop you. Even if they're playing Black, discard is included in only a small number of Black decks. Everyone knows they have to worry about dying to creatures, but to cards in the opponent's hand?

RB01: Vast Riches
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have twenty or more Gold counters, you win the game.

In contrast to what I just said about not being able to fight it, this one reads well and sounds like it might be cool. Hypocritical? Perhaps, but that's why design is an art. This card reads much more like poison, and the gold-hoarding flavor is great. Still, it appears to be something most opponents will not be able to do anything about, and might not be fun to have in several formats.

RR01: Walk through Fire
If all players would lose the game, you and your teammates win the game instead.

The name really sells it for me here. I like this design. Again, it might turn out to be unfun in multiplayer formats (Earthquake, for example), but it sounds like it would be good. Definitely the best of these rares.

RG01: Lord of the Land
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control at least five more lands than each of your opponents, you win the game.

Haha, really? Have you played standard in the past 5 months? I guess we shouldn't take the current metagame into consideration for a theoretical set, but five is far too small a number. Again, the victory is based on something your opponent can rarely do anything about.

I think you really missed here by making a win-condition cycle. It's a big risk that you should have realized would be very unlikely to pay off. Combined with using hybrid, it makes me feel you are just making cards for yourself and not for Magic. Unless your attitude changes (or perhaps your heart really is in the right place but somehow it comes out all wrong) next week, I don't expect you to make it much further. That's if you survive this round at all. (Sorry!)


  1. Thanks for the feedback! The Utopian constraints were a challenge for the Charm abilities; as you note, some executions were better than others (I was sad that the Flameweaving ability was too wordy to fit onto a Charm). I'm actually not a big fan of alternate win conditions in general, but the idea behind them here is that in Utopia, games don't need to end in combat. In general, I tried to set up the win conditions such that if you meet the condition, there are probably a lot of cards you could use to win the game (less conditionally and less slowly). I agree the Green one is the most dangerous, but it still implies either a huge lead on your opponent, or a huge amount of mana, and I was trying to stick to my pattern of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20 (which apparently I should have mentioned in my writeup - no one seems to have noticed it so far). Hopefully I didn't misjudge it too badly!

    I couldn't come up with an existing type of creature that both comfortably spanned all five colors and conveyed a suitable otherworldly aspect, other than Nephilim (which already have a lot of baggage). Surely creative can change the type if they don't like mine? Adding Flash to the White/Blue invader was one of the last changes made (putting a keyword on each of them), but seemed like a strong fit with the triggered ability. The abilities of both the White/Blue and Black/Red invaders draw on Shadowmoor design - Turn to Mist and Murderous Redcap. The Black/Red invader in particular was tricky, but I wanted to contrast with the lack of direct damage in Utopia. I agree the Blue/Black invader is a bit awkward; I was trying to interact both with Gold counters and +1/+1 counters, but not create a card that can remove Poison, given Mark Rosewater's expressed opinions on the subject. Maybe it got too convoluted.

    Anyway, thanks again for the review. I hope you're wrong about elimination!

  2. The 5, 10, 15, thing is interesting, but you let yourself become a slave to the cuteness of that and it made the designs worse because the numbers didn't work out.

    As for the creature types, creative doesn't always change them when they're design relevant, but it is a little unfair for me (and the actual judges) to come down super hard on your for it. In R&D, the conversation about what creature type they would have would involve a lot more than one designer's choice. In most scenarios, creative would have given you the type to use here ahead of time, or you would have gone to them and explained what you wanted and asked them for a type to use.

    There are some types that work. Human, for example, could be the invaders. The utopia could be composed of goblins and elves and merfolk and cats, and peace-loving zombies.