Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 3 of 6

Welcome back to the third installment of GDS2 Cycle Design Commentary. If you're not familiar with Magic: the Gathering, this won't mean much to you. Also, if you have any serious interest in game design you really should be more familiar with it.

Shawn's cards:

Common Cycle

CW01 – Substitute Shield
1W
Instant
You may remove a counter from a white permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Prevent all damage target creature would deal this turn.

I like the wording you've chosen, "remove a counter from a <color> permanent you control" though I'm not sure the spells really want to be free if you do that. If the set has sufficient counters to make these interesting there won't be enough pants-down moments in limited when I don't have to worry about 2-3 on-color tricks from my opponent every turn.

CU01 – Converted Bonds
1U
Instant
You may remove a counter from a blue permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Tap or untap target permanent.

Yes, yes, tap or untap, sigh. Choices like this at common just slow down play and give us too much to think about. Blue's ice-flavored "tap and it doesn't untap" is so awesome in part because it gives design an alternative to "tap or untap." The sooner you learn that, the better.

CB01 – Improvised Garrote
1B
Instant
You may remove a counter from a black permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature.

Interesting. I like the idea that you're enabling your opponent's spells in this cycle. I could see people not liking this, but I've decided it's cool.

CR01 – Makeshift Shank
1R
Instant
You may remove a counter from a red permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Target creature gets +1/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.

An instant classic.

CG01 – Impromptu Gauntlets
1G
Instant
You may remove a counter from a green permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

So 1G for +2/+2 or a free +3/+3? Somehow the casting cost seems wrong. This is an obvious one, but I don't like that much. I like the red one... so I'm not entirely sure why my instincts tell me this isn't as good. If this set has counters on non-creature permanents I might like it more. If only Vivid lands hadn't been so ruinous for Magic the first time around, I could see brining them back in this set. (That's a hint for the rest of you, for the next GDS. Vivid lands are not great design; not in the abstract, but because of what they did to constructed magic.)

Uncommon Cycle

UB01 – Corpsefly Feeding
2B
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay B. If you do, target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn.

You've got the activation cost there, very nice. Playing into the sacrifice theme, but not using the wording that only appears on 3 cards ever, also nice.

UR01 – Babbling Blood
2R
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay R. If you do, draw a card, then discard a card.

Oh sweet looting in Red. I love it!

UG01 – Offal Feast
2G
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay G. If you do, gain 3 life.

I'm glad you at least gave a common 5-card cycle before going to 3s. You did indeed make a bold choice. I think it could be fine, since you made the same amount of cards, and used the "either rare or mythic" option they gave you to work it out without really breaking any other rules. I wouldn't hold it against you.

Rare Cycle

RW01 – Watcher's Safeguard
4WW
Sorcery
Choose one or both- Search your library for an enchantment card and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library; and/or search another target player's library for an enchantment card and put it onto the battlefield under your control. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Why is this a choose one or both? This is a search effect - you can just fail to find, can't you? Plus why wouldn't you search both decks? You've added a lot of words and confusion to a card that could have been much cleaner and cooler. Look, all of the amateur designers are totally infatuated with the choose one, and choose two wording. Yes, it can be an exciting wording, when used properly. The "or both" wording here makes you look dumb. Incidentally, I would have gone for the multiplayer "search each player's deck." 

Now, after reading the next two cards I can see that you want to sync up the cycle, but if that's the case you have to abandon this design and come up with one that actually needs the wording. Also, don't make a cycle just so you can use the wording you like, make a cycle that's cool and if that happens to need this wording you can use it. The M11 Titans started out as "choose one" creatures, but we didn't hold onto the wording when the designs took us down a cooler path.

RU01 – Watcher's Mirror
4UU
Sorcery
Choose one or both- Put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of target creature you control; and/or put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of target creature you don't control.

Okay, this is more of a "one or both" because you might not control a creature, or your opponent might not. Still, the coolness of this card is in getting two tokens of different creatures. I think cards like Branching Bolt use "one or both" because they are commons that need to make the set work, so they should be playable in most situations. Rares can be much more restrictive, in many cases they should be restrictive, and I would have been happy with a design that requires two targets.

RB01 – Watcher's Revival
4BB
Sorcery
Choose one or both- Return target creature card in your graveyard to the battlefield; and/or return target creature card in another player's graveyard to the battlefield under your control.

This is the most "one or both" to me, though it feels closer to uncommon than rare. Overall, Mirror and Revival are okay designs, but I just don't feel the "one or both" wording on these makes for a cool cycle. "choose two" was really exciting and made a cool cycle of rare cards. "choose one or both" has appeared on about four lone commons in different sets. It's a templating fix more than a cool mechanic. You could have brought back Entwine, if you wanted.

Mythic Rare Cycle

MW01 – Olorah, the Shackled Judge
WW
Legendary Creature – Angel
6/6
Flying, Vigilance
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with four -1/-1 counters on it.
2WW, Remove two -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Destroy each tapped creature.

You are totally correct that these read exciting, have a little downside in the middle, and then get more exciting as you learn how to use them. Nice that this has a theoretical pants-down turn 3. My worry is that this card simply leads to a cessation of all attacks, which is boring. I wonder if destroying untapped creatures would be better? (I'd take off the vigilance, in that case, of course.)

MU01 – Seham, the Bound Deceiver
UU
Legendary Creature – Djinn
6/6
Flying
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with four -1/-1 counters on it.
2UU, Remove two -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Other creatures become 1/1 and lose all abilities until end of turn.

"Lose all abilities" is some dangerous text. Sure, we do it once in a while, and this is only until end of turn. The question you need to ask yourself is: could this be a fine card if they just become 1/1s? Probably. I still like it, though.

MB01 – Tyvaal, the First Prisoner
BB
Legendary Creature – Demon
6/6
Trample
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with four -1/-1 counters on it.
1BB, Remove two -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Target player sacrifices a creature.

This design is a little "meh" compared to the others. The white one already kills lots of dudes, and this one doesn't even fly. It only kills their weakest guy. It reads like you, as a designer, hate black for some reason. If only you had a cooler ability here the cycle would have been fantastic overall.

MR01 – Angathrak, the Chained Tyrant
RR
Legendary Creature – Dragon
8/8
Flying, Trample
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with six -1/-1 counters on it.
3RR, Remove three -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Untap target creature and gain control of it until end of turn. It gains haste until end of turn.

I'll take four! I'm a little wary about some of them have 4 counters and some having 6, but the designs look great and seem to justify it. This one is particularly awesome. RR 2/2 flying trample is probably a little too aggressive for Red. See also: Kargan Dragonlord. You can let development handle that, though.

MG01 – Naal, the Fettered Growth
GG
Legendary Creature – Treefolk
8/8
Trample, Vigilance
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with six -1/-1 counters on it.
3G, Remove three -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Put three 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens onto the battlefield.

Another good one. Except for the vigilance. Trample + vigilance is just mean (to the defending player, who feels they can't do anything about it - can't chump and can't swing back). Plus, the white one has vigilance already (and unlike flying, vigilance is not a keyword you repeat within a cycle).

Overall your Mythics make up for small mistakes in other places. Especially those rares. I think this is a solid set of designs and you should expect to make it through. I certainly feel like you've got sufficient spark to be a great designer someday.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for all the comments! Your point about tapping or untapping on the blue common is especially appreciated.

    I agree Watcher's Safeguard ended up pretty ugly. I got word back from Mark late on Saturday that the split would be okay and, though I had some blue and black designs lined up, I struggled Sunday to find a fitting white card. As a submission, I'm still not sure whether I should have just gone with the W/U composters.

    I was surprised you found the black legend the weak link. I had intended to push him a little with the 3 mana activation, but after making some late changes (bringing the power and toughness more in line, trading Intimidate for Trample), I guess it ended up looking comparatively paltry. I'm curious how tight you would make a cycle like these legends. I feel like each one wants to tell a little story of its own, so perhaps more variety to elements like power and toughness might have been appropriate.

    Now to finish reading through all your insights on the other contestants. Thanks!

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