Friday, August 19, 2011

It's the Magic: Tests, pt II

A few months ago, the guys at Magic did a reality show/recruitment drive--this is all in Part I, so I'm going to bullet-point here: 
  • Six Cards
  • All five colors
  • At least one Land, Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Instant, & Sorcery
  • Converted mana costs 1 through 5 (the land costs 0)
  • 2 Commons, 2 Uncommons, 2 Rare
Last week, I put up three of my designs with some commentary. This week’s move is pretty predictable:

Yeah, “Illusionary Toughness” might have been a better name, but that’s a boring name and I’d rather people ask who the Harrj are and why their labs make such shitty armor. I am getting to the point where I empathize with the difficulties of designing auras; Boar Umbra makes a 1/1 into a 4/4 on turn 3 or utterly fails to do anything at all. How do you balance that? Either your opponent is ready for auras or they aren’t, which makes them very swingy.

This guy comes from a jam session that my friend Josh and I were having during a drive to Texas a few years ago. We noted there were plenty of black villains in Magic (Yawgmoth, the Dimir), and even a couple of blue villains (Kami of the Crescent Moon, Oona). White and Red both lent themselves to being antagonists in their own fashion, but it was hard for us to really imagine a good Green villain to set a plane into turmoil.

We eventually hit upon a “synchronicity” ability that marked the invasion of a biological hive mind into the rest of a plane. It allowed creatures with more synchronicity to use abilities of creatures with less synchronicity, mimicking a hierarchial hive mind.

After we’d punted that around, we forgot about it. I picked it back up for the GDS and worked on a counterpoint to that synchronous villain; creatures with no abilities. I fashioned five tribal lords for Vanilla/French Vanilla creatures (Bears, Goats, Scorpions, Birds, Cats) so that vanilla creatures could get in the beats on their widgety foes while still remaining Vanilla. I’ll admit I took no small inspiration from Muraganda Petroglyphs for this.

The only problem with a ‘vanilla creature’ deck is that every lord you have is going to displace an actual, vanilla creature. I could see a “Super Natural Growth” series of cards that target creatures and do a thing, but if it is/isn’t a vanilla creature, it does something more.

This thing is a mess. I really liked the “auction off a spell” ability, but the templating was always difficult. For an actual bid, you only pay if you win and each larger bid costs your original bid, plus an additional amount. To activate an ability, you pay up front, then see if it resolves. Each larger bid is your last bid plus an additional amount. Even having everyone pay, but refunding it to their pools is doesn’t work so well, as those pools empty at the end of the phase and step, so I’m forced to ask why I would add the extra words for such a narrow use? It’s also another case where the guy casting the spell is at a disadvantage; they just paid mana for the spell, now they have to pay keep control of it. That’s before you even try bidding during the combat step and after the spell resolves, everyone has forgotten who was doing what before that happened.

Bidding is something that’s intuitive in real life, but becomes challenging when you’re trying to explain it via Magic rules. Ultimately, I was very happy I never had to turn this in, as Auction Block was something I was hung up on, but just couldn’t do right.

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