Friday, March 25, 2011

It's the Magic: Sheep!

So, I've been working on a pet mechanic I like to call Herd for a while now:

The concept behind it is pretty simple; if Herd creatures are all blocked, they're stronger. If they're all unblocked, they're stronger. If you block some and let others pass, then they're weak. Granted, it has the dangers of becoming a 'win more' mechanic, but then so does Battle Cry, with the caveat that Battle Cry can be one-shot once your Battle Cry dude(s) are blocked first to kill them. Barring that, you're holding your forces back until you're ready to alpha strike, and that's just dangerous.

Now this first implementation was what I wanted it to do, but as you can see, it is rather clunky and somewhat unintuitive. My second try improved upon the original in many ways.

This one somehow comes across to me as being cleaner, despite the fact that it has the same number of lines of text and uses modifiers for itself and other creatures instead of just changing its own power and toughness. I liked the "small, harmless creature that's deadly in groups" idea. I didn't realize at that time that by using a static ability instead of a triggered ability that if it was blocked alone and died automatically (as I wanted it to do), then it's static ability didn't work.

It is something of a moot point however; if I used a triggered ability, to buff other creatures, then one of them would 'self-destruct' before the boost ability of others came into effect. I wanted a static effect that would persist once the creature was off of the battlefield. Yeah, I wanted the impossible.

I had skipped those problems in favor of noticing that 0/1's for 1 weren't very good. I traded up.

Seven lines of text, but that empty space makes it a virtual eight. I just want to say right off the bat that giving a creature with a new ability a cheap ability that might turn that one off? Kind of stupid. Don't get me wrong, "Attack as if it were the only permanent on the battlefield" is an awesome ability that could use some exploring, but it's rather vague at face value.

What I intended for that ability to do was to simply 'turn off' everything else during the declare attackers step as far as Scuttle of Crabs was concerned. Stormtide Leviathan, Propaganda, Kazuul, etc.. None of that would happen because those permanents wouldn't exist while Scuttle of Crabs attacked that turn. Regardless of its merits though, it didn't belong on a test bed for an already-strange ability.

It loses the self-destruct caveat (though it becomes harmless) when the Herd is split. It's better than the Cerish Squirrels, but not by a lot. You have to have three attacking Herd creatures to come out ahead of the game, and that's assuming your opponent is cooperating.

The second Scuttle of Crabs isn't important, but the third one is. The self-destruct clause was re-introduced; blocked gave a toughness-based bonus/penalty and unblocked gave a power-based bonus/penalty. I liked it, but it was still seven lines of text with a static ability that required three Herd creatures (or more) to get working correctly.


This one solves the clunkyness and "needs 3 Herd creatures" issue, but it loses a lot of elegance and again static self-destruct ability. I do like the "flow around ability," where it can keep hitting the target even when it's blocked via friends, but it just doesn't work, and giving a static bonus to other cards, even if it's the opponent's prerogative to block or not, just seems strong.

On the other hand, "flow around ability" is the opposite of what I'm trying to do, which is basically, "If [Cardname] is X, then you want other cards to be X. If [Cardname] is Y, then you want other cards to be Y."

It's still clunky, but I think it finally works. The suicide clause isn't there, but a 1/1 is just dying to die anyway. A 1/1 for 1W, well, I don't expect anyone to play the cards I make anyway. If your Herd creature is blocked, your other blocked creatures are strong. If your Herd creature is unblocked, then your other unblocked creatures are strong.

I went with a triggered ability instead of a static one because these things can still get removed. I was happy with it though, so I went a bit further:

I don't know if a Herd lord is necessary, but I like it because...more Herd.

This is an ability that's much better in Green, but I wanted to try in a few different colors. Green is its home and it certainly needs some Green creatures to act as standard bearers for this ability. 

What certainly isn't necessary is a strange, reverse Overrun that sucks up Trample, but gives out ludicrous bonuses left and right. It's definitely a powerful card, but is the ability itself fun?

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